Wellbeing: How engagement drives experience

HRD spoke to Sweetwater's VP of wellbeing

Wellbeing: How engagement drives experience

Personal wellbeing is the new world order, with HR directors now realising that – in order to thrive in 2021 – wellness gurus will be needed. HRD spoke to Dr Kristal Walker, VP of employee wellbeing at Sweetwater – the world’s largest online music retailer. Dr Walker talked us through what wellbeing means to her and how authentic employee wellness is intrinsically linked to engagement.

“My personal definition of employee wellbeing is when an employee can achieve a sense of balance between what they consider to be their own priority environment,” she told HRD. “Those priority environments might include their work life, their home life, their financial status, their social relationships, or even their health. When any of these areas seems somewhat imbalanced, I believe that that's an opportunity for an employer to the extent that they can, of course.”

At Sweetwater, there’s just over 2000 employees split between sales and distributions. The majority of people have relocated to Fort Wayne. According to Dr Walker, this in itself is a catalyst for showing employee appreciation. Afterall, when an employee relocates, it’s incumbent on HR leaders to help situate them.

Read more: Employee engagement: The key to getting it right in a remote world

“Wellbeing plays a very important role in employee engagement,” continued Dr Walker. “Obviously, if an employee is suffering from any type of mental, physical, financial, or societal challenges, you’ll see that show up in their performance. If an employee is imbalanced in any area of wellness, it’s reflected in their attendance, their focus, their ability to perform, their ability to thrive, and their professional relationships. When you have resources in place within an actual organization, it prevents employees from having to take on the burden of finding those resources externally.”

The whole notion of what wellness means has shifted massively thanks, in some part, to COVID-19. Traditionally, the C-suite saw wellbeing as a segment of employee benefits – incentives, perks, bonuses etc. And while there’s no denying that wellbeing is linked to perk packages – it’s not it’s true origin. At Sweetwater, Dr Walker wants to make wellness much more sensible. 

Read more: Why employee engagement matters more in tough times

“I think the opportunity that Sweetwater has is making wellness very practical,” she told HRD. “We’ve had our counselling services in place now for about two months, and we’ve seen a tremendous difference in how employees communicate with their managers. We've always offered employee assistance programs, and they’ve been utilized exceptionally well. But I think the convenience factor of having a trained councillor here on site is phenomenal. If someone is struggling here in their career - something that's creating the level of anxiety for them - we have a professional here that can help them coach them through the process. These resources have been utilized very well.”

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