As 2020 has been a truly unique and testing year in terms of health and wellbeing, it seemed particularly pertinent to catch up with Autumn Krauss, Principal Scientist for SAP SuccessFactors during our latest episode of The Best Run Podcast. Her role in SAP SuccessFactors Well-being at Work program has been a critical support channel for employees across virtual and physical offices.
“We view well-being as a key predictor in employee experience, engagement, and all the outcomes that organisations seek from their employees,” Autumn explained. “This initiative has involved a couple of key components, one has been the ability to draw connections from our suite of products at SAP SuccessFactors and how organisations can utilise those to improve employee well-being, so really connecting the dots for our customers between the functionality we offer today and how they can leverage it to improve well-being.
“The other components are more associated with our partner ecosystem. We have some great partners focused on well-being and offering different technologies in the market, so another key part of well-being at Work is to bring those into our ecosystem and integrate them with SAP SuccessFactors and really have the best of both worlds – what we can offer from an organisational and HR functionality point of view, and then collaborating with these amazing well-being experts who are doing awesome things in their own right when it comes to technology and improving well-being.”
Autumn received her PhD in organisational psychology around 15 years ago, specialising in organisational healthy psychology with a focus employee well-being, health, and safety. “I like to endorse a more holistic view of what well-being is, so part of my research has been on safety at work, which during the COVID-19 pandemic has become more paramount in all different types of industries,” she said.
“My primary background in that research was high-risk, high-reliability industries, which are places where people can get significantly hurt and die,and studying the psychological piece of safety – how can we instil good safety attitudes and beliefs to have workers make good safety choices and support them with a strong safety culture.”
“Beyond that in the more the well-being and health side, I’m studying all types of stressors at work and trying to understand how organisations can really cultivate better work environments and design jobs in a more healthy and effective way. We can really go upstream and reduce the likelihood of stress at work and take a more proactive approach instead of trying to treat the symptoms once they occur.”
According to Autumn, the value of well-being has only gotten earlier scepticism in the past ten years. “While we all might want to endorse it because it’s just good to do as companies invest in well-being, provide benefits, and take care of their employees, there’s an argument to be made in its own right that we’re still running businesses.
“If we want to get executive teams onboard and invest in well-being as a strategy, then we need to show that it has significant positive impact on both employee and organisational outcomes. Luckily over the past decade there has been a lot of research that’s been assembled, both academic and business studies, to show that it does impact important outcomes.”
Autumn noted that at an individual level, well-being can mitigate and reduce burnout, absenteeism, presenteeism (when people come to work but aren’t fully engaged or productive), and ultimately reduce turnover.
“At an organisational level, I like to think more of the upside, trying to improve organisational capability, resilience, and agility,” she added. “If you’re thinking more of financial impact, there’s a lot of evidence that it reduces healthcare costs, mental health claims, and the like. There’s plenty of evidence that I would argue that shows well-being makes sense for business.”
Autumn encourages businesses to think of organisational well-being focus like culture change. “Systemically embed well-being as a value in our company and there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s not as a simple as a band aid of well-being benefits, which I think is one of the common mistakes that organisations make.
“When they do wrap their head around the potential business benefit and switched on to the idea that well-being is important, what they often intend to do is then throw a lot of well-being benefits at it. They’ll have a cornucopia of well-being offerings, be it training or gym membership, nutrition classes, whatever it might be. There is a lot of focus on benefits, offerings, and programs rather than initiatives.”
Autumn expressed the importance of balancing individual well-being and organisational well-being to approach this cultural shift more holistically. “It’s about trying to drive work environment, work conditions, leadership support, and executive decision making that cultivates a strong culture of well-being alongside providing benefits.”
Another key driver Autumn highlighted in company well-being is leadership. “We know generally speaking that better leaders are going to have more positive well-being and when I say better leader, I mean more transformational – people who are more inspirational, more encouraging, have a vision that they can communicate to their workforce, offer support and coaching, and show a lot of active care – being able to really recognise your workforce as whole people and support them in that capacity. Better leaders have healthier employees when it comes to well-being.
“When I talk about the organisational culture and really showing that well-being matters, one of the key ways is leader role modelling. A lot of the interviews I’ve done, employees will say, ‘I can’t find the time to walk at lunch or take a break, or invest in my well-being and have reasonable work hours because I see my boss and they’re chained to their desk, not taking advantage of those programs or giving themselves breaks.’ Research has shown that leader role modelling of well-being being important to them then certainly translates to employees having permission to also invest in their own well-being.”
According to Autumn, the most recent research shows that leaders who invest in their own well-being not only shows they’re role modelling positive behaviour, but also afford themselves the capacity to be better leaders. “If you’re expecting a lot out of a leader, they really don’t have it to give – they can’t turn around and offer the right level of resources and support to their employees. There are so many reasons why we have to start with leaders investing in their own well-being to create that space and role model for the rest of the business.”
To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on team dynamics, social exhaustion and understanding how to foster positive well-being particularly during this challenging period, listen to our most recent episode of The Best Run Podcast.