In a word, “productivity” is the value proposition of workplace wellness. But not like the kind where Lucille Ball tries to meet a quota in packing boxes of candy. Although many wellness “experts” still see the work world like a candy factory. Productivity at growing enterprises mean that their cultures nurture relevant innovations. Without new products and services, growth is unsustainable.
The barrier to entry has almost disappeared for most industries, resulting in highly competitive markets. If you’re building nuclear subs, freight train routes, or super tankers, you may have less competition than the new, local dry cleaners. But competition is dramatically increasing for every workplace as the world shrinks.
In my opinion, a workplace with a healthy culture will increasingly be the differentiating credential between winners and losers.
Why? Because a strong demand for skilled people will exist for a long time. In short, good people will work where and how they want to work.
Workplaces need intelligent, passionate, creative people to work for them over long periods of time. And when employers find these workers, workplaces must have the type of culture where those talented people want to stick around. As you read this, health care, education, law enforcement, the military, transportation, energy, agriculture, and technology are all going through various stages of massive changes. The workplace of tomorrow will not even slightly resemble the type of place where your parents worked. The old rules about how workplaces should be organized and managed are fading fast.
Are the Wright Brothers working with you?
At the dawn of the 20th century, the Wright Brothers came up with the idea of building a wind tunnel contraption so they could quickly test their theories of how to build an aerodynamic wing. In today’s fast moving world, that type of thinking (intelligent productivity) is a necessity. If you don’t have people with that type of creativity and drive working with you, you’ll soon be out of luck.
The question is how do you attract and keep creative innovators? Hint: The answer does not include helping them walk 10k steps per day, screening them for various diseases (real and imagined), or treating them like imbeciles with carrot-and-stick incentives for adopting healthy lifestyles.
Here’s what a healthy workplace looks like:
- Clear goals & priorities: Leadership sets clear goals and then supports teams in reaching those goals as the team sees fit, with minimal rules.
- The work has meaning: People know why their work and jobs are important, and how their contribution can be valuable.
- All ideas & opinions count: A diversity of perspectives produces solutions that are often counter-intuitive, simple, and easy-to-communicate.
- There’s down time: There is a recharge element that allows people to tinker with new concepts, random ideas, and hunches.
- Physical presence is secondary: It is still important to get together in person, but more work time is spent when and where a person chooses.
- The workplace is part of the community: No more silos. The workplace will increasingly become more entwined with the local geographic community, and communities of like-minded people, on a global scale.
- Make healthy choices easy: From taking vacations and sabbaticals, to easy ways to remain physically active, eat nutritious food, and have access to expert health advice. These resources will fit into the culture naturally, be appreciated, and seem consistent with the values of the organization.
The 4 important metrics to measure for healthy workplace cultures
1. Employee satisfaction: If employees and partners are not happy in their work – do not pass go, do not collect $200, and feel like they are being made to go directly to jail (to use a Monopoly game metaphor) – you must deal with whatever it is that is making employees and partners unhappy or unsatisfied. Sometimes that means adding something (a telecommute option), and sometimes that means getting rid of something (like a bad boss or a stupid policy).
2. Recruitment success: It should not only be fairly easy to attract talented people, they should be lined up at the door to work at such a great place.
3. Retention: Once you have good people, keep developing and investing in them. Make sure the value proposition works for both the business and the people in it.
4. Productivity: How many new products and services do you have? What are your revenue, profit, and customer growth like?
Notice that controlling health-care costs has not once been mentioned. Why? Because wellness programs really don’t save health-care dollars. So much evidence to support that statement exists that I could write an entire book about it. But two books already written on that subject are adequate. If you doubt me on this, read:
2. “Cracking Health Costs: How to Cut Your Company’s Health Costs and Provide Employees Better Care” by Tom Emerick and Al Lewis
But let’s say for purposes of example that you think wellness programs do save money by reducing health-care costs. The problem with that perspective makes building a healthy culture at work a cost-reduction strategy. Cost reduction can improve profitability for the short term. But eventually organizations need to grow. The 800-pound gorilla in the workplace wellness space is that success hasn’t been scalable. That’s because the clinical orientation of wellness programs can only save a fixed amount of money, and only works on a small percentage of people (if it works at all).
By focusing on building a “culture of well-being,” as Dr. Rosie Ward explains it, you move from defense to offense with an unlimited upside. You tie a holistic definition of well-being into the potential the world around you offers.
Productivity! If that isn’t happening at your workplace all the other stuff is a side show.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.