- Advertisement -

Moving the needle on employee wellbeing: What HR can learn from healthcare

Elise Jason, Strive Health
Elise Jason
Elise Jason is Vice President, People at Strive Health. She brings extensive experience building culture and talent initiatives at high-growth early-stage companies. She holds a master’s from Georgetown McDonough School of Business and has a Senior Certified Professional Certification (SHRM-SCP) from the Society of Human Resources.

Is your organization struggling to maintain the wellbeing of its employees?

- Advertisement -

If so, you’re not alone. Supporting employee wellbeing is easier said than done. As a people leader in healthcare, an industry synonymous with high stress and burnout, I’ve personally witnessed the burnout and talent churn that occurs when employees aren’t supported.

Often, companies recognize the importance of supporting their employees but fall short when it comes to addressing the various factors that influence employee wellbeing. For example, a company may celebrate mental health awareness but make it cumbersome for employees actually to take mental health days.

To reduce burnout and turnover, HR leaders must close this gap. In this article, we explore crucial factors that can help HR leaders create a work environment where wellbeing isn’t merely a concept but an everyday reality.

What are HR teams missing when it comes to employee wellbeing?

Our people team at Strive Health once had a position that was taking an unusually long time to fill. The issue wasn’t compensation. It was that the role required the employee to travel and treat patients across 27 counties in the Northeast in the dead of winter.

Recognizing this deterrent, we tweaked the role to allow a virtual option for these visits. After this change, we saw renewed interest from applicants and were able to fill the position.

In many cases, organizations that struggle to tailor support take an overly narrow focus, often limiting their approach to compensation. Wellbeing involves many factors, and it’s short-sighted to believe that making a single adjustment in compensation will improve long-term employee satisfaction and retention.

- Advertisement -

Ultimately, HR needs to take a broader view of the factors that influence wellbeing. Physical health, financial wellness, career aspirations, connection to community, familial relationships and mental health all impact the wellbeing of your employees.

Our example also demonstrates the importance of focusing on the factors your organization can control. My organization couldn’t control the geographic distribution of patients, but we could control how we administered care.

Most healthcare organizations face a similar challenge. For example, an urgent care clinic has no control over the high-stress nature of dealing with patients. However, that doesn’t prevent leadership from identifying ways to reduce stress in the administration of care. Leaders can improve collaboration among healthcare providers or take other steps to create a more supportive work environment.

Beyond healthcare, a tech start-up might not be able to control unpredictable market conditions, but leaders can model transparency and empathy when communicating with employees.

The cost of failing to consider the various facets of employee wellbeing and take meaningful measures is steep: 87% of employees would consider resigning from an organization that fails to emphasize employee wellbeing. To limit burnout, disengagement and turnover, organizations must offer thoughtful avenues of support that address the unique stressors their employees face.

In fact, benefits that support wellbeing could serve as an inflection point for stronger employee-employer relationships. Every workforce is unique, so the support you provide should be tailored to your employees’ needs.

3 practical takeaways for supporting employee wellbeing

Understanding the full scope of employee wellbeing is one thing, but how can your organization put this idea into practice? Here are three actionable tips for supporting employee wellbeing that apply to any industry:

1. Tailor support for specific employee populations

Supporting employee wellbeing starts with understanding what wellbeing means for your employees. Why? Because each workforce has different demographics, concerns, priorities and work-related stressors.

For example, in healthcare, student loans are a serious burden for many employees. So, in a healthcare organization, student loan assistance programs might go a long way toward supporting employees’ financial wellness. However, this benefit may not go as far in an organization where the majority of the workforce doesn’t have a post-secondary education or where most employees are late in their careers and are no longer paying student loans.

The best way to understand the factors that influence employee wellbeing at your company is to ask your employees directly. Solicit opinions on the benefits employees find most helpful and which benefits employees would like to see introduced. The key is knowing how to quantify these findings and analyze how sentiments evolve.

2. Leverage data in the decision-making process

In addition to understanding employee perceptions, it’s important to leverage insurance carrier utilization data to understand which benefits employees are using and which they’re ignoring. Working with a benefits broker that prioritizes data-driven insights can prove valuable here.

Learn how leading organizations use data to inform their benefits strategy at HRE’s upcoming EPIC Conference, April 24-26 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.

The combination of quantitative data with qualitative insights offers a clearer picture of employee wellbeing. By leveraging these insights, you can develop benefits packages that are more representative of what employees are actually interested in. The goal should be to reduce the number of benefits that employees don’t utilize, moving toward more widespread utilization across the organization.

3. Ensure your employees understand what they’re entitled to

It’s not uncommon for employees to feel confused about their employer’s benefits. In fact, three out of 10 employees don’t know if their employer offers the most common insurance benefits (e.g., medical, dental, vision). This number becomes five out of 10 employees when looking at non-insurance benefits, such as mental health benefits, tuition assistance and telemedicine.

This is a lost opportunity. What good are wellness benefits if employees aren’t aware they exist or know how to access them? To make the most of the benefits you already offer, communicate clearly and regularly about your benefit offerings.

As you do, remain mindful of the mediums through which employees prefer to receive information and create logical pathways for employees to find answers to their questions. Employees shouldn’t have to reach out to multiple colleagues to access their benefits.

Championing employee wellbeing—in healthcare and beyond

Employee wellbeing isn’t an abstract concept—it’s the result of a series of practical initiatives that are meaningful for employees. In healthcare and beyond, every organization can benefit from taking a more critical view of benefits and determining which benefits best support wellbeing. To keep employees engaged (even in challenging times), it’s critical to close the gap between promoting wellbeing in messaging and actually impacting wellbeing through meaningful offerings.

Again, this is easier said than done. However, by tailoring your support to your employees, prioritizing a data-backed approach, and ensuring your employees understand your benefits offerings, you can create a work environment where supporting employee wellbeing isn’t just a good idea but a lived reality.