Why a Comprehensive Well-Being Strategy Is a Business Imperative

Recent studies reveal that most employees worldwide are performing below their potential because they are not engaged. Business leaders are recognizing the growing costs of unsustainable workforce practices and that championing a healthy workplace has a significant impact on achieving business results.

Unfortunately, many organizations struggle to integrate well-being into their people strategy in a way that is based in science, leverages advanced technologies, and addresses all the various factors that impact an employee’s well-being.

The Well-Being at Work initiative from SAP seeks to operationalize a culture of well-being in organizations to enrich the employee experience and drive peak performance. Dr. Autumn Krauss from the Human Capital Management (HCM) Research team at SAP SuccessFactors supports the initiative by ensuring that the well-being applications and solutions recommended to customers are evidence-based and grounded in well-being science.

In September, Dr. Krauss will present a session at SuccessConnect in Las Vegas, where she will discuss how the latest research findings and technological innovations can help improve the employee experience and increase workforce health, well-being, engagement, and ultimately performance. Looking toward her presentation at SuccessConnect in Las Vegas, I sat down with Dr. Krauss to get some insights about the well-being point of view at SAP and what she plans to address in her session.

On Workplaces That Work for Everyone

Dr. Krauss: In today’s world — given the diversity of not just demographics, but types of workers with different motives or interests in terms of why they come to work every day — I think about creating environments in organizations, as well as how jobs are designed, that allow employees to bring their full self to work every day and to achieve their full potential.

That looks different for every person, but companies have become more and more flexible in the nature of the design of their jobs as well as their environments to cater to all different types of workers.

On Well-Being and Employee Engagement

Yes, the results for engagement continue to decline as a metric but the work that we’re doing at SAP, and what my SuccessConnect session is really about, is about moving upstream. When we look at engagement as a metric, that’s in the rearview mirror of where we’ve already, in some instances, lost people as far as their level of motivation and commitment and identification with their company. When I think about a topic like well-being, I look at moving upstream to the employee experience on a daily basis, and how companies are supporting employees as whole people in the moments that matter most to them.

We need to recognize that we can’t start caring about workers when they come through the gate in the morning, or when they clock in. The boundary of work and life is so permeable at this stage that companies that recognize these are people first and that their non-work lives certainly spillover to work and vice versa are the ones that are building environments and creating conditions where employees really can thrive at work.

Only through creating the business in which the culture, practices, leadership behavior, and team dynamics are all set up in a way where employees feel valued and like they can contribute at their highest level will engagement metrics move. Well-being is such a lever for engagement; by focusing much more upstream and on the environment and work itself, you will eventually get better engagement.

On Her Recent Presentation at the Annual SHRM Conference:

I had the opportunity to present our well-being point of view at the annual SHRM Conference in June, and the interest and feedback from the human resources (HR) community was incredibly positive. I collected some data via real-time polling in the session and those results showed some interesting trends.

First, the audience ranked goals like increased employee engagement and talent attraction and retention as what their companies want to achieve through their well-being investment well above outcomes like reduced healthcare costs or risk mitigation. We’ve seen this pattern of results with other customer sessions, and it’s encouraging to see that the conversation is shifting to the potential increased value on the well-being investment when it comes to engagement and retention, not just a reduction in costs.

Second, when audiences rated their well-being culture maturity, they acknowledged that their current well-being culture is relatively immature and largely still centered in employee benefits or total rewards. Again, this is consistent with our research: Many HR teams are challenged with moving the well-being conversation out of benefits and an HR initiative and into an executive leadership conversation where employee well-being is integrated into business operations and decision-making. So there is some real work to be done there, and that’s why I’m excited to be at SAP and supporting  Well-Being at Work because I think, as SAP, we have an excellent opportunity to help companies operationalize well-being inside their businesses, given how much our technologies enable all business functions and processes.

Overall, as an applied researcher and scientist, presenting at conferences like SHRM and SuccessConnect are great opportunities to connect with the HR community that we are looking to serve with our research and make sure that our scientific work on a topic like well-being is aligned with what HR and business really need and can practically implement.

On Her Upcoming SuccessConnect Session:

I want to convey that there are two pieces to this well-being puzzle. One piece is very much individual well-being, and this might be the classic way that we think about this topic, which is that we want to serve up to employees resources, content, and tools that they could use for their own personal well-being. Often what this looks like is companies providing mindfulness training, gym memberships, or some type of reimbursement for healthy lifestyle choices, or they’re running campaigns to try to get employees to focus on their personal well-being.

Alternatively, what I really want to emphasize in this session is the organization’s responsibility to create an environment where the nature of the work and the conditions, technologies, policies, and processes positively impact employee well-being.

When I’ve done my research, in response to questions like “Does the company care about you?” and “How do they support you?” I’ve often heard from employees things like:

  • “Oh, HR says our well-being really matters and they offer us a myriad of activities, tools and programs, but at the end of the day what I really need is a manager who understands the challenges of my day-to-day work.”
  • “I need a travel policy that’s not going to have me flying red-eyes when I’m on the road.”
  • “I need to see through talent management practices that the people who take care of themselves get promoted – not the ones who are burning out because they respond to emails at night.”

What I want our audience to do is broaden their view of what well-being is and how organizations affect it and can improve it, to understand how it is really about the ways that a company supports the employee experience in key moments throughout a person’s journey with the organization that is driving their well-being. We need to address those as well, and not just give employees better resources to deal with their own personal well-being issues. It’s the environment and experiences we’re creating in companies that is ultimately impacting them.

Dr. Krauss’ presentation, “Why a Comprehensive Well-Being Strategy Is a Business Imperative and How to Make It So,” will be held at SuccessConnect on Wednesday, September 18 at 9:45-10:15 a.m. For experienced SAP SuccessFactors users, Krauss will also present the session “Bringing Well-Being to Organizations Through Exceptional Employee Experience,” on Wednesday, September 18 from 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.