The Human Experience: Organizational Sustainability, Employee Health and Wellness

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The Human Experience is an emerging model in workplace design. It’s equal parts sociology, psychology, organizational behavior and architecture - the intersection of workstyle and lifestyle. Organizations focusing on The Human Experience seek to attract and retain top talent by creating workplace environments that make employees want to come to work, be active participants and perform at an optimal level.

NKF is a leading advocate of this approach. As part of our efforts to promote it we’re offering a series of four blogs highlighting fundamental concepts that shape The Human Experience.

This third installment in the series addresses the long-term sustainability of organizations, employee health and wellness and the intersection of the two.

The Human Experience: Organizational Sustainability, Employee Health & Wellness
Managing people with a focus on their professional, physical and emotional well-being generates both immediate and long-term payoffs for organizations.

In the second Human Experience blog, we looked at organizational attitudes toward risk and change, and the challenge presented by the accelerated pace of technological evolution. Managing change and risk, both in a general sense and in adopting new technology, asks leadership to be empathetic - always considering the impact their decisions will have on individual employees.

This third-in-the-series blog again addresses leadership style, but this time in the context of creating both a pragmatic and innovative corporate culture that produces the greatest return for the organization over the long term - pragmatic in its acceptance of millennial’s attitudes toward their careers and innovative in its focus on employee needs and desires.

Investing in the individual in an age of career mobility
We’re in a time where knowledge workers (workers whose main capital is knowledge) make up an increasing proportion of the typical organization’s workforce. We’re also in the midst of a thriving economy and an employment landscape where the leverage is with employees, rather than employers.

A recent Gallup report on the millennial generation reveals that 21% have changed jobs within the past year - more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same. Only 50% of millennials strongly agree that they plan to be working at their company one year from now. Even in Silicon Valley, where perks and benefits reign, turnover is two years on average.

It’s a relatively recent phenomenon, a new paradigm we need to acknowledge where employees are acting on their curiosity about what else is out there career-wise. Managers and leaders are either going to embrace that reality with a pragmatic, long-term perspective or take it more personally and act more emotionally, perhaps to their organization’s long-term detriment.

Certainly, millennial career mobility has undesirable consequences for organizations, both in operational continuity and on the bottom line. Given that, there is a line of reasoning that rewards lifers and questions the wisdom of investing in professional development and training for an individual who may very well take those skills and training somewhere else.

There’s a competing line of reasoning, though, one contending that managers should strive to make that employee an advocate for their organization throughout their career. With the influence of social media, a business with its focus on the future works hard to build communities around its brand, and former employees are important members of those communities. Much like nurturing repeat customers and cultivating client referrals, organizations should invest in the individual employee experience and professional development, regardless of what the statistics say about job change. Treat them as if they are going to continue interacting with the company even after they leave; it’s a matter of business sustainability.

Health and wellness as part of the employee experience
According to best-selling author Jacob Morgan, in his book The Employee Experience Advantage, the employee experience is 40% organizational culture, followed by the physical environment and technology, each accounting for 30%. Every organization’s culture develops organically, taking root over time. It’s a major factor influencing productivity, as well as employee health and wellness – an influence that’s not always positive.   
A growing body of research shows that the consequences of negative (high stress) cultures include employee disengagement and lack of loyalty at best, physical health problems at worst. Among the findings of studies conducted by the Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization, organizations with low employee engagement scores experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.

From a health and wellness perspective, that means encouraging behavioral change through both formal and informal policies; maybe something as simple as giving employees gym memberships or substituting a one-on-one conference room meeting with a ‘walk and talk’ meeting in the fresh air. Perhaps it’s something more significant, like transforming the workspace into an open-plan/flex-space/free-address work environment or leveraging ‘Smart Office’ technologies, such as temp/lighting controls, smart desks or resource booking.

Keeping with the theme of long-term business sustainability, leadership must work to develop an engagement culture that acknowledges each employee and gives them a voice in structuring benefits and a workplace that satisfy their greatest desires and wants, while also generating the greatest return to the organization. That return could come in the form of anything from increased productivity or reduced insurance costs to long-term loyalty, among both current employees and those who’ve moved on to other opportunities.

EvelynLee_017.jpgEvelyn Lee
Regional Workplace Manager, West Coast Lead
Evelyn.Lee@ngkf.com 

 

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