Staying Human in a High-Tech World: Create a Culture of Well-Being Through Prevention

Work plays a crucial role in my life. It’s where I spend a lot of my waking hours. It’s where I get a substantial amount of my personal satisfaction and social connections. Not to mention, the economics benefits for me and my family. I think most knowledge workers experience the role of work much like I do.

But social, economic, and technological changes have been changing the nature of work at a warp speed. Some industrial era risks have been eliminated. Yet knowledge workers have been exposed to completely new risks. More than a third of employees say their jobs are harming their physical or emotional health and 42 percent say job pressures are interfering with their personal relationships*. So, in our ‘always-on’ business environment, where can business leaders still find a competitive advantage when it’s clear that many employees struggle to keep up, stay healthy and engaged?

Employee Well-Being is an Attitude, Not an HR Program

Increasingly, businesses are investing in health and well-being programs. The well-being industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of the human capital management market. Leaders are recognizing a clear advantage when they balance the needs of people with performance goals. Many businesses provide employees with resources such as fitness apps, employee assistance plans, or mindfulness training to help improve health. That’s all good and useful. But why start there? Why not prevent the causes of illness, burn-out, bore-out and low performance before they even happen?

Great leaders understand that businesses perform better when employees’ sense of well-being is high. And well-being is highest when it is treated as an important cultural value that permeates all aspects of business operations. Changing the way business runs in terms of how jobs are designed, how employees are managed and how decisions are made, does more to create peak performance and well-being, than investing in programs that attempt to ‘undo’ the impacts of unhealthy practices. This calls for adopting a company-wide commitment to creating a culture of well-being. It means establishing practices that collectively integrate well-being into a company’s strategy.

Building a Better Employee Experience: SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life

When I talk to business leaders about the strategic imperative of employee well-being, they nod and agree. What they struggle with is ‘how’ to get there. How do you build well-being into the cultural fabric of a profit-driven business? One way to do it is by changing the way an organization listens – and acts on – the needs of employees. You do it by creating more transparency, more autonomy and more opportunities for people to take individual responsibility for their work, health and well-being. My team is on a mission to do just that.

It’s the reason we created SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life. We recognized that businesses today don’t have the tools and insight they need to build the type of workplace that enable people to follow their passions, achieve their purpose and perform. Nearly 80 percent of executives rated the employee experience as very important in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report. However, only 22 percent said their company excels at building that superior experience. Leaders need to enable people to shape their workplace, according to their needs. To do that, my team recognized that a more holistic solution that provides transparency for all of the factors that contribute to engagement, health and well-being was required.

Changing a Paradigm

Working with 21 global co-innovation partners, the SAP Future of Work team set out to empower employees to shape their organizations in an entirely new way. A typical enterprise normally defines the factors it thinks are important for employee engagement, does a survey at a fixed time a couple of times each year and then creates workplace programs to deal with the issues identified. The reports may or may not be shared transparently with employees. But what if the survey asks the wrong questions? What if employee needs change quickly and the business invests in the wrong things over the long-term? What should people do with the results? How can the organization learn over time what is working and what’s not?

SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life tackles these questions. It enables employees to assess the things that are most important for their own well-being holistically. Whether that’s focusing on their career development, getting better sleep or reducing stress. Employees get immediate, personalized and evidence-based recommendations for healthy habits from Thrive Global, the market leader addressing stress and burnout to drive behavior change. They also get information about existing company support specific to their needs. The cloud solution can make rapid predictions to optimize those recommendations in real-time. The more input it gets through employee self-assessments, the better the predictions become as it learns over time from the collective intelligence of cloud users. SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life opens up a continuous feedback channel to leaders, so employees can communicate what they value and what needs to change.

Managers can also trigger an assessment whenever they want feedback from the team. This provides holistic, real-time feedback on employee sentiment, improving communication and organizational insights to support employees and the entire organization in its well-being journey. Managers get more transparency on the issues impacting the workforce and can track changes in real-time. They also get recommendations on actions they can take to make improvements.

Essentially, with SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life, leaders have the insights they need to proactively build a healthy, thriving organizational culture, as opposed to merely reacting to the symptoms of an unhealthy workplace.


Günter Pecht is global vice president of the Future of Work at SAP SE. Follow him on Twitter @Guenterpecht or on LinkedIn.

*Attitudes in the American Workplace VII, 2001.