Managing Employee Welfare and Retention

January 09, 2023

Much has changed in the last number of years, with organisations needing to adapt quickly to the pandemic. Employees have also adapted quickly to remote working in many situations, while both employees and employers are more recently adapting again to the mix of remote, hybrid and in person working conditions. Many of these factors have contributed to a new employee mindset with regards seeking employment or remaining with an organisation. It is no wonder that employee wellbeing and employee retention are inherently linked and a significant factor with regards employment decisions.

At a recent webinar celebrating global mental health awareness day 2022, Wrkit conducted a survey of the 110 participants and asked a number of questions regarding post pandemic health and wellbeing. A key question asked was - ‘Has your mental health improved post pandemic’?

56.4% of the participants replied ‘no’.

This brief survey highlights the ongoing challenges faced by all employers, and relates to the impact the pandemic has had on the physical, social and mental health of their staff. Workplaces are now required not only to support and develop their staff, but with the shifting work practices brought about by the pandemic, to also ensure the retention of qualified, skilled and experienced staff for successful business continuity and growth.

Research findings

Alongside the recent challenges, research shows that the psychological health of an employee is a strong correlate of job performance (Ford et al., 2011), and higher levels of employee wellbeing are associated with organisation performance outcomes, increased customer loyalty, profitability and lower staff turnover. The relationship between work and wellbeing is one of reciprocity, and it is in an organisation’s best interest to promote and support employee well-being. (Kerkel et al., 2019).

It is estimated that the benefit of investing in employee health and wellbeing is 3:1, in that for every 1 euro invested, there is a saving of 3 euro. This does not however consider the overall value generated by a happy healthy employee in the areas of creativity, morale and teamwork, which are also valued by organisations but not so easily measured.

It has been shown that perceived organisational support is one of the main factors in determining employee turnover intentions (Huang et al., 2020), which indicates that employees care about the extent to which organisations value their contribution and prioritise their wellbeing.

The employee benefits company Benefex released The New Global Reward Director which was a piece of research consisting of 213 online interviews with 200+ employers from Jan-Aug 2021 and published in Sep 2021. The findings show that there is a 90% increase in employees having expectations around wellbeing support and there is an 87% increase in employees talking about their health and wellbeing, with 89% of employees now choosing to use wellbeing benefits.

These very large percentages show a much greater interest, expectation and engagement by employees with their own health and wellness, and organisations who effectively provide support have a much higher ability to retain staff, which is crucial for organisational success (Singh, 2019). How employees see or rate their workplace supporting them, is significant to their staying long term, and investment works both ways - a healthy workforce leads to healthy outcomes, with greater productivity and higher performance overall.

Employee interests have changed over the recent decades and the pandemic has highlighted many of these changes. Employees now are interest in being:
Informed – employees are more educated and informed through self-driven research and information available to them e.g., glass door, and are interested in what it means to work for a particular organization
Involved – they want to be consulted more and actively involved in work related solutions
Valued – to feel valued for their contribution and appreciated as people
Sense of Care – the appreciate an overall sense of feeling cared for and for organizations to show how they care for the environment
• Stimulated – employees do not want to get easily bored and are looking for additional projects e.g., wellness champions during the pandemic
• Career engaged – are seeking career development and input, seeking a clear career pathway within an organization
Recognised – to be recognized and valued for their contribution and the work they do
Supported – more supported mentally, physically, emotionally and financially through their workplace

Human centric workplaces are much more attractive now to new talent and to retaining existing staff. Employees value the types of supports and benefits they have access to, as well as how leaders support them by creating a psychologically safe environment and a culture of recognition.

Welfare and Retention Recommendations

A much as employee mindsets are changing, workplaces are also evolving and the workplaces that are attracting and retaining long term engaged staff are ones that are investing intentionally in a variety of employee supports. In the UK the cost of hiring and training staff replacements is estimated at between 6 – 9 months of the roles salary.

Some brief recommendations for employers to consider wishing to retain staff are:
• Listen to learn - workplaces need to have a mechanism to listen and learn through their employee voice
• Develop insights based on real welfare issues - employees are openly sharing many of their challenges and these insights are essential in developing a variety of effective and practical supports
• Make it easy to capture – it is commonly agreed that a companywide yearly survey is now no longer enough and a much easier way to monitor employee welfare is to go digital and invest in a product that can both simultaneously capture and support staff health and wellbeing
• Review the data – digital tools have the ability to capture a wide range of data, however this data is only useful if it is brought to life and time given to understanding, reviewing, and pulling out the deeper insights
• Build your strategy around these insights – a deep understanding of the issues facing employees will underpin an effective health and wellbeing strategy
• Cater for the wide cohort – workplaces today are made up of a wide variety of ages, cultures and identities, as well as a varying level of health and wellbeing interests, and to successfully cater for all staff, wellness interventions now need to broadly educate, engage and entertain
• Feed a recognition culture – a human centric environment recognises all the people employed in the workplace and a key role for managers is to catch their staff regularly being successful
• Reward, applaud and nurture - finally it goes without saying that staff stick with an organisation longer if they feel not only recognised but rewarded appropriately and nurtured interpersonally

Jason Brennan

Director of Wellbeing and Leadership