Healthy organisation

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Here's Josh Bersin's definitive guide to a wellbeing culture.

It’s abundantly clear that a healthy organisation is about much more than just Zoom fitness classes and webinars on resilience training. Healthy organisations are those that commit to healthy practices that go beyond company walls.

Latest research by The Josh Bersin Company has uncovered a set of seven elements and 24 dimensions involved in creating a holistically healthy organisation.

The whitepaper, titled The Definitive Guide to Wellbeing: The Healthy Organization, finds that companies leveraging the right wellbeing strategies are consistently focusing on the following seven dimensions:

  1. Physical health
  2. Mental wellbeing
  3. Financial fitness
  4. Social health and community service
  5. Safe workplace
  6. Healthy culture
  7. Technology & HR capabilities: Digital tools, analytics, and more.

From report excerpts, we've pulled out the 24 dimensions under these seven elements that can help you build the foundation of a healthy organisation.

1. Access to personal health and fitness programmes

Nutrition, exercise, and sleep are the building blocks of health. Studies show a lack of attention to these factors can lead directly to physical and mental illnesses, including heart disease, obesity, memory loss, and depression. Yet only 28% of American adults say they have easy access to healthy foods, nearly one in three say they don’t get adequate sleep,and more than a quarter of the world’s adult population is insufficiently active.

2. Focus on preventive care

Preventive care—such as checkups, immunisations, and screenings—can help detect diseases and medical problems before they become serious. Employers can empower employees to take a proactive approach to health by hosting assessment centers and helping people find their way to the right tests. Eg, Microsoft hosts regular screening events for employees and families, including testing for heart disease and organizing mammograms.

3. Healthcare support

While preventive care is proactive, acute-care offerings meet employees’ immediate needs. Employers offering these services—including addiction counseling, smoking-cessation programmes, and mental health crisis support—often do so through partners such as EAPs and telehealth lines.

4. Personalised benefits

Personalisation is a prime objective for HR when it comes to benefits, which account for around 30% of a company’s payroll. Indeed, benefits are most powerful when they’re individualised and responsive to an employee’s unique needs. Vanguard, for example, increased the number of ways it gathers employee feedback to understand how the most crucial benefits shift and adjust its offerings accordingly. 

5. Focus on positive mental health

Nearly three-quarters of the world’s workforce experiences fatigue, exhaustion, cynicism, or detachment. These classic symptoms of burnout are often associated with physical health, anxiety, decreased productivity, absenteeism, and elevated employee turnover. In response, offer a gamut of solutions, such as unlimited mental health support to practicing mindfulness at work to educating managers to recognise team members’ symptoms.

6. Coaching and communication

Coaching is a highly personalised intervention that can have a direct impact on employee mental health. In fact, a recent study by BetterUp shows direct coaching drives improvement in areas like emotional regulation, stress management, and resilience. Whether you train your managers to be better coaches or work with external coaches, there is value when organisations encourage open dialogues about mental health and emotional wellbeing.

7. Balanced work-life integration

In 2009, Daniel Pink postulated motivation is driven by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Companies subsequently began to embrace a culture of employee empowerment. Zappos adopted a no-manager philosophy, building autonomy into every role and job function. Do your employees have control over the work they do and how they do it? In a hybrid world, can they participate in making decisions about where and when work gets done

8. Praise and appreciation

Gratitude helps people connect to something larger than themselves. In the workplace, praise can affect employee mental wellbeing in two ways. First, workers formally or informally praised report higher levels of happiness, productivity, and loyalty. Second, praising others affects brain function positively, improving metabolism and stress levels. Companies such as Oracle and IBM have thriving platforms that facilitate expressions of appreciation. 

9. Fair and equitable compensation practices

Employees expect to be paid based on accomplishments, capabilities, and results, not favoritism or politics. Does your organisation pay people for their contributions, or do you unfairly factor in rank, tenure, or other biases? Can employees talk openly with managers about their salary? Do workers know how their pay is calculated? Do your company’s pay practices reflect the financial needs of your workers?

10. Financial counselling and support

Armed with the knowledge that money-related stress is directly linked to issues of physical and mental health, companies such as Johnson & Johnson emphasise financial counselling and support for employees at every stage of their lives. They offer student-loan coaching sessions for recent-graduate hires and retirement planning for tenured employees. They even offer legal aid to ensure workers can manage unexpected expenses.

11. Meaningful rewards

Rewards can be a powerful lever for cultivating employee wellbeing. Yet high-value monetary rewards are not as important as what employees consider more meaningful rewards, which can be determined only by knowing your workforce. Companies such as Amazon offer a range of meaningful reward choices that suit their workforce, including bonuses, public recognition, extra vacation, and even group experiences like skydiving or city tours.

12. Opportunities for growth and progression

Being provided with growth and development opportunities is key to the EX. Learning is also crucial for wellbeing: developing a new skill can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, help build a sense of purpose, and foster connections with others. It’s why companies such as AstraZeneca and Visa foster a culture of continuous learning, in which people can build their skills, move around the company to different roles, and progress in nonlinear ways.

13. Opportunities for workplace connections

With remote and hybrid work here to stay, companies need to be intentional about fostering connections among their workforce. Multi-Color Corporation started a 'coffee chat' programme, which pairs employees with colleagues they’ve never met, while employees at Ryan LLC use the company’s wellbeing platform to stay connected digitally and share personal stories with one another.

14. Positive employee life experience

Another result of the shift to remote and hybrid work is organisations now consider employee experience to be inseparable from an employee’s whole life experience. As the CHRO of a Japanese manufacturing company said, “When we started asking our employees to work from their kitchen tables, we became intimately involved in their lives.” Company strategies include encouraging employees to talk about their family life with managers, expanding benefits to include all members of the household, and formalising policies for flexible work so workers can balance commitments without anxiety.

15. Empathy and support for caregivers

Working parents account for an estimated 35% of the global workforce, and more than one in six US employees care for elderly or differently-abled family members or friends. Companies can’t afford to ignore this talent. Supporting caregiver employees starts with understanding their challenges. Eg, Genentech, upon discovering many of its employees were struggling with teens facing mental health issues, now offers targeted education about these.

16. Community giveback and partnerships

Today, companies in every industry understand the impact of local giveback initiatives and global partnerships for social good. From TD Ameritrade’s 500,000 trees planted in Canadian communities to LifeWorks’ sponsorship of a school for refugee girls in Kenya, organisations and their employees are finding ways to give back to society. 

17. Safety prioritised in all roles and jobs

Keeping workers safe from injury, illness, and accidents is an essential responsibility of every employer. Although manufacturing companies such as Ford and Dover Corporation have strong legacies of workplace safety, since the pandemic began, leaders in deskbound industries had to learn quickly about protecting people. Practices include rewarding safe behaviours, working with occupational therapists, and ensuring clear & consistent safety protocols.

18. Inclusion, diversity, and psychological safety

The US airline industry attributes its record of no fatal crashes since 2009 to a culture of psychological safety in which pilots feel safe reporting their mistakes. Companies need to actively build this kind of psychological safety in a variety of ways. IBM celebrates its LGBTQ+ employees and leaders publicly, for example, and the CEO of DaVita Kidney Care takes unscripted questions from employees at live town halls.

19. Safe and healthy facilities and work sites

Space greatly impacts our physical and mental health. Organisations have known this for years but were sharply reminded in 2020 as workplaces were locked down, facilities enforced safety protocols, and homes became offices. Now, as companies rethink their work environments and prepare to make shifts in operating procedures, it’s an opportune time to consider how healthy these spaces are.

20. Equity and accessibility for all employees

According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), employment discrimination continues in many different settings at work. Hiring practices, job assignments, compensation models, working conditions, and even wellbeing offerings can be sources of inequality for employees. Ensure your practices, tools, technologies, and worksites are accessible to everyone. Consider a wide range of wellbeing offerings for every need.

21. Wellbeing across the company 

The rise of the chief health officer in companies outside the healthcare industry is a positive sign; however, it’s not enough to simply assign the responsibility of keeping everyone healthy to one executive. Companies such as Ryan LLC are building a shared vision for employee health into their company’s strategy. “It wasn't that we were creating a culture of wellbeing,” said Ryan’s CHRO. “We were unlocking the wellbeing in our culture.”

22. Human-centered leaders and managers

Human-centered leaders are essential as we move past the pandemic and into a new normal. Skills such as empathy, listening, learning, and caring can inspire people to be their best, healthiest selves. How well do your company’s leaders model healthy behaviours at work? Do you engage in dialogue with your employees about health and wellness? Do you participate in wellbeing activities alongside your teams?

23. Healthy ways of working

In the 1980s, studies showed the majority of fatal truck accidents in the US were caused by driver drowsiness. Many states responded with mandates enforcing rest periods and limiting the number of hours a trucker can drive in a day. The result? A drastic reduction in accidents. Companies can learn from this: ensure employee workloads are manageable, encourage opportunities for rest and recovery, and continuously seek to simplify processes.

24. Commitment to the environment

With the World Health Organization declaring climate change to be the greatest challenge of the 21st century, organisations need to consider the impact on employees’ mental and social wellbeing. Companies such as Nike, Disney, and Starbucks are working with their supply-chain partners to reduce carbon emissions, use renewable energy in manufacturing, and limit single-use plastics. 

Lead image / The Josh Bersin Company

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