How effective wellbeing strategy can improve engagement

The pandemic revolutionized the way we approach wellbeing – but there's still work to do

How effective wellbeing strategy can improve engagement

There is probably more focus on employee wellbeing around the world right now than at any time in employment history. Traverse through history and you will find horrific working conditions in the 1800s and early 1900s right through to post WWII when unions started to gather more influence. People-led employment contracts start to filter through in the early 1990s and have exploded today where HR leaders realise that if they don’t offer flexible arrangements, then they risk losing employees to a competitor.

But employment contracts are not just about the pay, holidays and bonuses. Wellbeing plays an important part in that too. Employees want options to volunteer for charity; attend school events, enrol in individual courses that are non-work related and work the hours that they want.

“The role of employee wellbeing is a key factor in any organisation’s success,” Roz Urbhan, chief people officer, Liivestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), told HRD. “It was important prior to COVID but has certainly held centre stage since that time. Having a clear strategy on how to develop wellbeing is an invaluable approach, as it will only provide benefits and no downside if done well. The definition and scope of the term ‘wellbeing’ is evolving as we figure out what the needs are for our people. What we do know is it needs a dynamic approach.”

LIC is an Agri-tech and herd improvement co-operative which empowers livestock farmers through the delivery of superior genetics and technology. Headquartered in Hamilton, New Zealand, LIC employs more than 700 permanent staff, swelling to 2,000 during New Zealand’s peak dairy mating and herd testing season through spring.

“Everything seems to have sped up since the pandemic and wellbeing is no exception,” Urbhan added. “We need to keep constantly changing as the environment changes and needs change. We know that what used to work won’t continue to be the answer.  At LIC we try to have different options to that apply across a variety of demographics. The need for support continues to grow. It is fantastic to see it taking centre stage and the campaigns around wellbeing/mental health should be welcomed.”

LIC is one of the New Zealand agricultural sector’s largest private investors in research and development and new product expansion. LIC also has offices in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. As a farmer-owned co-operative, all LIC profit is returned to its farmer owners/shareholders in dividends, or reinvested for new solutions, research, and development. Urbhan believes that HR leaders have a big role to play in the wellbeing of the employee, which in fact has a knock-on effect to the wellbeing of the organisation. The happier the workers are, the more productivity increases.

“Human resources as a profession provides excellent coaching and insights,” she added. “Our roles span across organisations and across networks which gives us insights that may be unique to that role. Having human resource representation within all leadership groups is imperative. 

“Human resources will continue to grow in its relevance as a strategic partner. Manager in organisations continue to grow in their abilities which allows the human resources professionals to step into more of a coaching/advising role.

“Visibility of the skills within human resources teams has certainly improved. It is fantastic to be part of this evolution at a time where some immensely talented people are showing what they are capable of and having a highly tangible, positive impact. This is evident in the quality of decision making we’re seeing across different businesses in NZ where it is a more holistic view.

“Leveraging human resources as a strategic partner enables leadership teams to be both commercially savvy and at the same time able to truly engage their people in driving successful business performance as they are more confident that their individual contribution is valued.”

Work, however, is still needed to get the balancing act right between employee wellbeing and the daily duties of the job. With many companies wanting their employees to return to the office, there is natural reluctance from employees to give up the freedom and comfort of working from home.

“We do need more understanding of how hybrid works,” Urbhan said. “Performance and wellbeing focus work together. You simply can’t have one without the other in a sustainable way. Organisations are going to need to balance demand with the ability to provide resources.  Accessibility to wellbeing and support resources will continue to be a focus. It is exciting to see the additional players in the market as they are driving innovative solutions where you can literally access information/links/contact names at your fingertips through apps. There is something for everyone!

“We shouldn’t forget the phrase that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. The future of wellbeing will keep us on our toes as it should. It is an exhilarating piece of work that deserves energy being put into it.”

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