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Stand Out by Making Wellbeing a Strategic Priority

Published by Leonie McCrann,

6 June 2022

There has been a lot of talk about The Great Resignation lately. This is the notion that a vast amount of people are leaving their jobs after re-evaluating what they want from a workplace post-Covid. The latest findings from the CIPD’s labour market outlook found that resignations are in fact growing and stand at about 40% more than pre-pandemic levels.

Employers are therefore considering their retention strategies, and I am specifically going to comment on the impact of change (which is constant and unavoidable) and wellbeing.

Change is a catalyst

It is well known that change (of any kind) requires each person to assess and react. The change curve (such as the one described by Kubler-Ross) identifies several stages which each person must go through, ranging from initial shock/denial and anger, through to acceptance. The reason it is called a curve is because there is a very clear dip in the middle. This dip stage is called depression. The stages of change that make up the change curve actually mirror the stages of grief. Depending on the perceived impact of the change, people will often react in surprising ways when faced with what others perceive to be a straightforward change. Change management methodologies therefore aim to reduce the time spent in this dip and the time to traverse the curve as there is a direct correlation between this depression stage and a corresponding dip in productivity, performance, and morale.If change is therefore not managed well and it is forced upon employees, it can result in a number of employees resigning.

Wellbeing is overlooked

When you aren’t well, change is so much more challenging. We have all experienced this in everyday life. Imagine moving house with a bad cold, its already a stressful experience due to the chaos that change causes. Add to that an underlying feeling of being unwell and the wheels come off much more easily. It’s therefore quite surprising that so few organisations consider the wellbeing of impacted teams before they undertake transformational change.

To truly change, we have to let go of old ways and accept new ones. This inevitably means letting go of a way of working which we have grown accustomed to, and instead embracing a new way of doing things, which for some creates feelings of fear.

Minimising the Productivity Dip

Assessing wellbeing before embarking on change, particularly transformational change, enables organisations to plan for the transition and put in place support structures to minimise the fear and the productivity dip, ensuring each person progresses to acceptance with the minimal impact on morale and performance. Change is a personal thing and therefore each change will need the individual to consider what it means for them. The view they take on this will be influenced by various factors, with their current state of mind and sense of wellbeing playing a critical factor in how positively the change is viewed.

Foundations of Trust

It is important to recognise also that individual wellbeing is not the sole requirement. If teams are not working effectively together, changes to new ways of working are likely to be resisted with greater force and if driven through can result in sub-optimal processes, in the worst cases, which defeat the purpose of the change in the first place. Teams need to be built on foundations of trust, with effective communication and accountability and this needs to be in place for change and continuous improvement to be effective.

Equally, the wellbeing of the organisation has a significant factor in the likelihood of successful change. If there are leadership issues, for example, the change will most likely be perceived as a directive, and the recipients will resist it, often successfully, as there is a sense of comradery due to a common enemy spurring the case for resistance.

The Great Resignation

The pandemic drove numerous changes to the way in which we live and work, and change drives us to think differently. Significant change has always been the catalyst for evolution as we are an adaptable species. The significant learning from the crisis for many was the transience of life and therefore the importance of their wellbeing. Where this is not reflected in the values of their organisation, the result in mass resignation.

As identified in the CI Wellbeing Report, those organisations where employees felt a sense of purpose in their work and reflected higher wellbeing scores, were much more likely to recommend their organisation to others and remain in their jobs, than leave in the pursuit of a greater sense of purpose and wellbeing. However, where there is a disengaged workforce, change will likely be the catalyst to drive resignation, and this is what we are seeing now. A recent Microsoft survey found that more than half (52%) of Gen Z and Millennials may change jobs in the year ahead. Gen Z and Gen Y already make up nearly half of the workforce, and that number will skyrocket by 2025. Research by Gallup shows that above all else, the number one thing Gen Z and Y want from their employer is that the organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing.

Wellbeing has now become a significant strategic priority and employers also have a duty of care in this regard. It really is a win-win situation – happy and well employees who are empowered and heard will show loyalty to a company. Wellbeing is the key to better retention, productivity, and reputation. Organisations that understand this will be far more competitive and also better prepared to weather all types of change.

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