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Humankind | 21 February 2022

How addressing wellbeing can significantly improve EX.

15 Minutes with Jenny Williams

For the third part of our series on the case for EX, we’re joined by our Chief Client Officer Jenny Williams to see how bringing attention to employee wellbeing can significantly improve EX.

What did you know of Employee Experience (EX) when you joined Humankind in 2018? What’s changed? What have you noticed?

I knew of EX and had read articles from overseas, but there was very little in New Zealand. Since then, there has been an absolute explosion of interest in employee experience in New Zealand which is just so exciting to see - a lot of our clients now have employee or people experience officers and take an employee-centred approach to the work that they do. We’ve seen a real shift in terms of how HR operates.

Why do you think a leader should focus on EX in their organisation?

By focusing on EX, you essentially bring out the best in your people. It's the opportunity to enable your people to thrive by tailoring what you do for the specific person, and their specific needs. When you do that, you increase the levels of engagement, the levels of productivity, and their overall job satisfaction and enjoyment at work.

2021 had been a tough year for so many organisations, have you noticed a big impact on employee experience in our clients, and other workplaces? 

Every organisation has been impacted significantly. What we have seen work well is where employers have focused on employee experience, and on employee wellbeing.

During the various lockdowns a number of employers recognised that the uncertainty of covid and isolation of lockdown could have a negative impact on their employees’ wellbeing so we saw an increased focus on deliberately creating opportunities to connect with employees (albeit virtually). For many employees that was the first time they experienced that level of connection, and it had a huge impact on their wellbeing during lockdown. A lot of employers have continued on with this practice subsequently - really focusing on connection and ensuring their employees’ wellbeing is the number one priority in their organisation.

This is so great to see because we know that if your employees are well and healthy, and work in a supportive and caring environment, they are more likely to be energized to come to work and are able to do their best.

Is there anything that stood out in particular for those organisations that had a focus on their employees wellbeing during lockdown and beyond?

There are so many incredible wellbeing initiatives, but what works well in one organisation may not work in another. What we have seen work well is where the employer takes an employee-centred approach. This entails talking to your employees, gaining an understanding of what their needs are and what they would like to see in terms of wellbeing initiatives in your organisation. This helps give your employees’ a sense of ownership of the process and means the employer knows they are focused on the right initiatives that will have the biggest impact for their employees.

What do you think the link between employee wellbeing and employee experience is?

It's a very strong link, so if you are creating great employee experiences that are individualised to your employee then you are likely to be enhancing their wellbeing. It is an outcome of focusing on employee experience.

What kind of employee wellbeing services do we offer at Humankind, and how do we measure the success of this work?

Humankind can support organisations with a discovery to uncover what will work in their organisation and to develop and implement a wellbeing strategy. This strategy can explore at the different pillars of wellbeing that are relevant to your organisation, whether they be Sir Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model or something else.

In terms of measuring success, there's a number of ways including through improvements in engagement, looking at your absence data, the amount of sick leave your employees are taking for example, and of course through employee uptake of wellbeing initiatives and their feedback.

Expecting wellbeing to be low during these tough times, how do you think that organisations could take a more proactive approach to employee wellbeing / EX, rather than reactive?

Absolutely – its far better to build the fence at the top of the cliff than require the ambulance at the bottom! The first step is always to listen to your employees – really understand their needs and what wellbeing support they would like to see. The other thing would be to think holistically about wellbeing. It is easy to focus on physical health and mental wellbeing, and while they’re very important, there are also other aspects of wellbeing, such as social wellbeing and financial wellbeing that may be equally important for your people.

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