Mitt Romney was right. Corporations ARE people.
In a recent interview with Gallup’s leading workplace researchers: Tom Rath, leader of Gallup’s workplace research division and author of bestsellers including: How Full is Your Bucket? and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements and Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management — the experts explain the research behind why companies should care about the well-being of their employees.
As a positive psychology consultant who helps companies improve employee engagement and interpersonal relation, I still come across my fair share of old-fashioned businessmen and women who poo-poo the idea of taking action to improve the well-being of their employees. “My employees get a paycheck,” they explain to me. And with our still-shaky economy they add the bonus line: “And these days they should be thankful to even get that (the paycheck).” Unfortunately for them, the research on workplace productivity clearly reveals that failing to look out for the health and happiness of your employees leaves you with a less profitable, less sustainable company. Sure, you might make a lot of money in the short term by churning and burning employees. But, more likely than not those same employees will rack up a major healthcare bill on the company’s dime just before quitting and forcing you to find and train someone new for a hard-to-fill role.
As Gallup’s Jim Hartner puts it, “The whole person comes to work, not just the worker. So how you manage that person affects key outcomes like new disease burden, sick days, and obesity, which have direct implications on annual health-related costs.”
You’re hiring the whole person
Indeed, when you hire, you are hiring a whole person. Not a robot, a person. A person whose immune system will grow weak when they are sleep deprived from working 12 hour days. A person who will become inactive and potentially obese if their employer frowns upon exercising at lunchtime and keeps a candy dish in every room. A person who wants to have money in the bank, but who also to be challenged and appreciated for hard work. It is a fact that the number one reason individuals across industries report leaving their job is because “They did not feel appreciated.” So showing your employees that you care isn’t just a nicety, it’s a necessity.
When your employees come to work, for better or worse, they bring themselves with them. They care if you belittle them. They care if they are so stressed they can’t sleep at night. And they care if their team is friendly.
So why do so many employees stick with companies that treat them badly? Well, obviously because they need the money.
Paycheck employees are bad for business
If your employees are showing up for no other reason than to collect a paycheck – they’re bad for business. Harter argues that employees who are just there to make a living are, “not doing everything they could now to help the organization improve. They’re not making the best decisions for the employer; they’re basically waiting it out. That’s not good for a company or a person.”
Besides keeping good employees around and keeping them productive while they’re on the job, why else should your company care about employee well-being? Put simply, it will save you a boatload of money. Employees with high wellbeing have 41% lower health-related costs compared with employees who report lower wellbeing. In a firm that has 10,000 employees, this difference amounts to nearly $30 million.
The economy isn’t an excuse
The final objection to looking our for employee well-being is that the economy is too poor, right now, to put money into well-being efforts. In his interview with Gallup Management Journal Dr. Harter was asked: “Are companies waiting for things to improve before they put money or energy into employee wellbeing?”
Harter’s candid response: “If so, that’s a bad idea. If companies take care of the whole person, they build more loyalty over time, and that affects their brand in many different ways. The people with the highest levels of wellbeing are the ones who are more likely to be loyal to their company. The people with the lowest levels — the ones who are struggling or suffering — are more likely to say, “If the economy changes, I’ll switch employers.””
So there you have it. Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of you.
What can you do to improve employee well-being on the cheap?
- Leave healthy snacks around the office instead of candy and the like. Suggestions: almonds, peanuts, apples, pears
- Make a habit of sending a short “Thank You” note to one employee every morning. Notice what your employees are doing well and each morning, before you send any other emails, email one employee to recognize him/her for good work.
- Encourage employees to take a break. If you are the manager, leave for lunch, or for a walk, or for a workout. Let your employees know that they are free to do the same.
- Plan a team challenge or activity. As an office, register for a walk/run, or a fitness competition. You need not require everyone to participate, but if you provide a forum for active employees to connect with one another you will reap the benefits of healthier, happier employees.
- Learn to be friendly. Having a bad boss can more than double your risk of heart disease … don’t be the bad boss that gives people heart attacks.