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Why It Pays to Give a Damn

WARNING: I’m going to use one of those HR buzzwords that make most of you roll your eyes: "Wellbeing." I know those touchy/feely words make many of you uncomfortable, but you’ve got to get over it.

Today’s employees want and expect their bosses to actually care for them. They want you to know what makes them tick, how they’re doing, how they're feeling, in short, they want you to care for their total "Wellbeing."

Squishy territory for many especially if you think getting involved in your employees personal lives is more than what you signed up for, none of your business, or frankly, you just don’t care.

But be warned: you do so at your own peril!

In the new book, WELLBEING the authors - armed with the results of a global study of more than 150 countries representing - urge leaders to go further in engaging their workers.

The authors found those managers who invest in their employees total Wellbeing are more likely to see real results.

Employees who say their managers actually ‘care’ about them as a person are:

  • More productive
  • Produce higher quality of work
  • Less likely to call in sick
  • Less likely to leave

The authors explain more about the study and the surprising results in this guest blog.

Guest Author Blog: The Business of 'Wellbeing,' The New Value Proposition for Your Employees and Customers by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Ph.D., authors of Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements(Gallup Press, 2010)

Guest Author Blog
Guest Author Blog

To succeed in the current economic climate, organizations must do more than just create wealth.

They have to show employees, customers, shareholders, and communities that they are making a real contribution to improving society by investing in wellbeing. If they fail to do so, talent and capital will rapidly migrate to other organizations, and they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

While something as broad as wellbeing might seem difficult to quantify, it isn’t.

Gallup research teams have studied this topic intensively over the last five years and found that organizations that invest in wellbeing reap significant reductions in cost and increases in value over time. Individuals who are thriving have significantly fewer unhealthy days. Their changes in disease burden and associated costs are substantially less. And they help improve their communities and the brand of the organizations that employ them.

Gallup studied the wellbeing of workers in more than 150 countries and identified five universal interconnected elements that represent what people look for in life — across nationalities, faiths, and cultures:

  • Career Wellbeing: how one occupies his or her time and liking what he or she does each day
  • Social Wellbeing: having strong relationships and love in one’s life
  • Financial Wellbeing: effectively managing one’s economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Physical Wellbeing: having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis
  • Community Wellbeing: the sense of engagement and involvement with the area where one lives

Organizations will soon be judged on their ability to influence these measures that capture much more than revenue. As Robert Kennedy said just a few months before his death, traditional economic metrics such as GDP measure “everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” This explains why forward-looking organizations (and governments) are now turning their attention to global wellbeing.

Gallup has worked with hundreds of organizations to help create engagement and boost employee wellbeing.

Young Employees
Young Employees

We found that what’s best for the employee isn’t at odds with what’s best for the organization.

On the contrary, doing what’s best for the employee greatly increases the likelihood of the organization’s success.

One of the best questions we asked more than 15 million workers is whether their supervisor (or someone at work) seems to care about them as a person.

People who agree with this statement perform better, produce higher quality work, and are less likely to get sick or injured on the job.

This all adds up to a more efficient and higher performing organization.

What’s more, the world’s best managers see the wellbeing of each employee as an end in itself instead of as a means to an end. Those managers realize that each worker’s wellbeing, and in many cases the wellbeing of his or her family, is intertwined with their ability to lead and manage.

Ritz-Carlton President Simon Cooper sees his organization serving not only its 38,000 employees around the world, but also their families, which results in better customer service. Mervyn Davies, former chairman of Standard Chartered Bank, helped more than 70,000 employees realize that the bank cared about their emotional and physical health. During his tenure, Davies initiated several programs aimed at boosting his employees’ wellbeing, and he always encouraged employees to put family first. Davies even shared with his employees his own challenges as his wife battled cancer. He knew there was no way employees could truly love their organization — and ultimately perform at a high level — if it didn’t have a heart. Cooper and Davies are just two examples of leaders who understand that improving the wellbeing of their employees helps drive business results.

No doubt some leaders will ignore their employees’ wellbeing, dismissing it as beyond the scope of their jobs. But they do so at their peril. The best leaders already understand that they are in the business of boosting their employees’ wellbeing and are using this knowledge as a competitive advantage to recruit and retain the best employees. They know it will be easier to attract top talent if they can show a prospective employee how working for the organization will translate into better relationships, more financial security, improved physical health, and more community involvement.

But leaders can’t just tell employees that they care about their wellbeing.

They have to take action if they want to see results. This requires continual measurement and follow-up to help workers manage their wellbeing over time. Just as the most successful organizations have worked systemically to optimize their levels of employee engagement, attention to employee wellbeing will provide an emotional, financial, and competitive advantage.

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Tom Rath
Tom Rath
Tom Rath

Tom Rath has written three international bestsellers in the last decade.

His first book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Rath's book StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a long-running #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller and was listed by USA Today as the top-selling business book of 2008.

Rath has been with Gallup for 14 years and leads Gallup's workplace research and leadership consulting around the world.

Jim Harter

Jim Harter, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist for Gallup's international workplace management and well-being practices.

He coauthored the New York Times bestseller 12: The Elements of Great Managing, which is based on the largest worldwide study of employee engagement.

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