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It seems like the world is moving faster than ever. From coping with the aftermath of the pandemic and facing economic uncertainty, to technological advances and social unrest – people are dealing with a lot. And it’s no wonder that reports of burnout, stress, and anxiety are on the increase in the workplace. Employee resilience is being tested and it’s difficult to perform to your best in such an overwhelming atmosphere. So how can organizations prioritize wellbeing?
Well joining us on this episode of The Shortlist to chat about this is Sara Andrews, the Chief People Officer at the Acacium Group. Sara is passionate about creating positive employee experience and on this week’s show we dive into this topic, examining how leaders and managers can champion wellbeing while looking at the positive benefits this has for an organization as a whole.
In this episode:
- How to equip employees with the skills needed to navigate this changing world.
- Avoiding a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to wellbeing.
- Establishing a network of safety.
- Having a clear purpose and the importance of trust.
- The business case for wellbeing.
1. Organizations must approach wellbeing differently. As the lines between work and life have blurred, and changes within businesses and the world continue to compound, employees, managers, and leaders must be equipped with the right skills and processes to cope and thrive.
2. There is no single way forward, but helping people to take ownership for their own wellbeing must be the first step. Initiatives, like wellbeing Wednesdays, healthy food options, and physical exercise all have their place – but they are not the solution. Look at how employees experience work, how they find joy, and empower them with the tools, knowledge, and right mindsets.
3. Talent expects organizations to take wellbeing seriously now. They want that culture of trust, and the flexibility to work around their life. Wellbeing has become a huge tool for talent attraction and retention.
Our guest’s final piece of advice:
“We need to recognize that you need a broad spectrum and a blend of opportunities, initiatives and, solutions. We’re all different. And we all respond and react in different ways. As business leaders, we need to think more deeply about how we create an inclusive organization.”
- [05:01] Sara’s career trajectory
- [07:40] What are employees currently struggling with?
- [10:40] Who is responsible for wellbeing in a company?
- [15:54] Scaling leadership and mental health first aiders
- [18.32] Digging deeper beyond initiatives and empowering employees
- [22.55] The importance of training
- [29.04] Balancing performance and wellness
- [34.46] What is the business case for improved wellbeing?
You’re very welcome to episode 116 of The Shortlist. I’m Johnny Campbell. I’m the CEO and co-founder of SocialTalent. I’m your host today for the next 45 minutes or so. For those of you joining us live you’re very welcome. We do broadcast live every Wednesday afternoon, European times, Wednesday morning in the US and the evening in APAC. And you can join us on YouTube, or LinkedIn, any Wednesday, joining the chat live and put your questions to our guest or to me or your comments in the chat box. And hopefully we’ll get some of those today as well.
But we’re here today to talk about how to prioritize wellbeing in periods of change. It seems like the world is moving faster than ever, from coping with the aftermath of a pandemic and facing economic uncertainty to technological advances, social unrest, a war in Europe, recessions – people are dealing with a lot today. And it’s no wonder that reports of burnout, stress, quiet quitting, anxiety in the workplace. Employee resilience is being tested and it’s difficult to perform your best in such an overwhelming atmosphere. And organizations are trying to figure out well, “how do we prioritize where wellbeing fits in?”
So joining us on The Shortlist today to chat about this and how to perhaps solve for this is Sara Andrews. Sara is the Chief People Officer at the Acacium Group and she’s passionate about creating positive employee experience. On this week’s show, we’re going to dive into this topic, examining how leaders and managers can champion wellbeing while looking at the positive benefits this has for an organization as a whole.
Sara you’re very welcome. Thanks so much for joining us. Before we kick off, perhaps would you mind sharing with our audience a little bit about yourself, where you’re joining us from today, what do you do? And for those who aren’t familiar with the Acacium Group, what the business does and its size and focus as well.
Hi Johnny. Yeah. Great to be here and thank you for inviting me. I’m Chief People Officer for Acacium Group. We are a collection of 23 different businesses that work across the life science, healthcare and social care space. And we do that globally. We have a blend of staffing solutions and service solutions, and we’re one of the world’s biggest global healthcare, social care and life science providers of those services into both public and private settings.
So walk me through on a typical day of someone in Acacium Group looks like. Are you staffing hospitals? Are you staffing nursing homes? And where is this happening?
Yeah, so as I said, we’re a global organization. We work in the life science sector. So staffing into big pharmaceutical companies, supporting trials of medical devices and medical technologies as well as drugs trials and all of the certification that goes along with bringing those to market. We work in the healthcare sector, both for the NHS in the UK, but for private hospitals elsewhere in the globe. We’ve got a big organization called Favorite Healthcare Staffing in the United States. And so we staff into healthcare settings and hospitals and then we have a business that works in the community as well. So we are providing community care and looking at patient flows from hospitals into care, which could be in intermediary settings or in the home, and is a wide variety of complex care in some cases that need different clinical skills and where we take the clinical risking in looking after those patients. So it’s a really broad, purposeful organization.
Anyone listening to the podcast today or watching live might think, okay, Sara’s a Chief People Officer. I know her gig. I have a fair idea of how she probably got here. But you didn’t get here the traditional route. You didn’t start life in the HR world or as a recruiter or working in comp and benefit. Tell us a little bit about your unusual route to this role.
Yeah. So I started life as an apprentice. That’s the kind of another thing I’m fairly passionate about is bringing early careers talent into the workplace in the right way. So I started life at Jaguar and Rover. I started as a technical apprentice and spent four years in overalls, a hard hat and boots learning how to do an engineering drawing, how to use Allay, the milling machine to wire things and how to connect things electrically, and also how to fabricate things as well.
So I then went on and did my HNC and HND in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, and then ended up with my career at Jaguar, being at the Castle Branch plant in their paint shop. So responsible for all sorts of facilities, changes and improvements, but really kind of the heart of what I was responsible for was for process improvement in some way, shape or form. And I think that early kind of career for me in what was sort of six Sigma and black belt and process improvement and statistical process control back then, those kind of underpinning principles have stayed with me through my career, really. So I brought those into program management and program director roles, and then into the world of people management as well.
So I’ve been lucky enough to work internationally in France, in Sweden, in China and in the US as well when Jaguar was owned by Ford, which has just been a real privilege to get that international experience. And a lot of those engineering principles kind of find their way through, into how we design work today and how we design organizations today. So a very different route to human resources but one that I feel has served me well as well.
I think it’s fascinating and it is unique. It’s not the typical routes the Americans would say into this profession. My experience is that folks like yourself who come from a different background into a profession like this have very unique perspectives and typically do things differently. But before we talk about what you might be doing differently, I’d love to get your views on when we talk about care and we talk about wellbeing, talk to me about why should we focus on this right now? What, in your opinion, are employees having to grapple with? What are they struggling with? What’s happening? What are the big themes? And does it differ around the world, for example, and to different types of people in an organization, the size of your Sara?
Yeah. I think the world is changing at such a pace and you outlined some of those changes at the beginning of the call. We’ve got most recently constitutional change. We’ve got economic change. We have got change within the workplace. We’ve got social change and I sort of really feel that spills over into work because work and life is so much more connected than it ever was before. So most organizations around the world are embracing some kind of hybrid working model and are spending time working away from the office as well as working in the office.
And so those sort of hard lines that we perhaps used to have where you’d finish your day’s work and you’d have a commute or a drive or a journey home and a time to decompress, think about the day, gather your thoughts, get yourself ready for the next day, those lines are much more merged than they ever used to be. And I think that compounded with the change that we are seeing within businesses, as well as the world at large, need us to think just a little bit differently about how we can do what we can do as employers to look after people and to equip them with some of the skills and the coping mechanisms and a way of looking at things that just helps them navigate a world that is changing in some ways, almost faster, I think, than we can keep up with it.
And we see that particularly in young people, there was a Panorama program last night, actually about mental health in young people and how the sort of 18 to 24 year age group has perhaps been impacted more than any other age group with the pandemic. And so if we want to be a business that is different is differentiated, that really cares about all of our people, stakeholders, partners. Then we’ve got to kind of I think, think differently about the challenge of the change that we are all experiencing and how that might manifest itself in an individual’s wellbeing.
Who in your opinion is responsible for this in an organization? Is it the job of HR to lead and run all the wellbeing initiatives or does anyone else have a bigger impact or responsibility do you think?
Well, I think it’s fair to say that for a while absolutely HR professionals have taken that lead particularly through the pandemic where we did some things very differently to try and support people with coaching, with resilience mechanisms, to deal with a whole range of different circumstances and situations because people’s homes were suddenly their offices. And I think the HR function stepped up to that plate. I think it was our opportunity to demonstrate what we could do and how we could add value and help and support, which I think broadly speaking, lots of organizations, including my own did incredibly well.
I think now that we are of particularly post pandemic, but nevertheless, still dealing with all of these other global changes. I think the thinking is shifting a little bit, certainly in my organization, we are really now trying to equip managers and leaders to be able to have better conversations and good quality conversations with their teams so that they can be supported in a way that works for them. I think we’re also beginning to recognize that one size doesn’t fit all and that everybody is in a different place and a different space. And so the challenge for managers is how do we acknowledge that and vary our leadership style so that we can accommodate difference because everybody experiences change in a different way.
I think a great example for us in the UK and probably globally was the passing of the queen. People experience that in a very different way and as leaders of the business, we tried to make sure that we were empathetic and caring and understanding regardless of where you sat on that emotional spectrum.
And then I think there’s a role for managers in helping employees with change. And particularly workplace change is something that we absolutely have a role to play in. But ultimately what we’ve been really exploring is because change is so individual, we can play a role as an employer, but actually where we’ve got to is to really start to think about how we help our employees take ownership for their own wellbeing, because it’s different for everybody. And so there’s a level at which we can support as a business, but would we be better off really thinking about what it is that we can do to help employees recognize signs and signals of their wellbeing, think about how they respond to change and how they deal with change to give them and help them understand their mindset and explore how they might benefit from a broader growth mindset and that ability to adapt and pivot and respond positively when change happens. And also to help them understand their levels of resilience and what the mechanisms are that help them individually manage change when it comes along.
So I think there’s a role that organizations play, but we are definitely exploring a broader piece around how can we help employees be empowered to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.
I’d start with the leadership piece for a second. Because I know for example, here in SocialTalent, we in our employee engagement surveys, we ask something along the lines of, would you feel comfortable going to your manager with a personal issue or crisis? And we use that as a metric to understand whether there is that trust there and that the feeling of probably that safety and that wellbeing. And when it’s absent, of course, we want to try and address it. And when it is absent, we find that a lot of leaders really are uncomfortable. Their personal style is just not to maybe it’s to do with when they first joined the workforce and what the culture was then, et cetera. But this really don’t think that it’s right to be talking about personal stuff in the workplace because maybe they don’t do it.
And therefore they feel that nobody else wants to talk about. So how do you work with leadership on scale to create an environment where leaders are armed with the right tools to have those conversations, to be able to drive that safety with their employees, with their colleagues so that they can understand the different issues, not withstanding the fact that they are different and will react differently. How do you create the environment where somebody who is deeply upset about the Queen’s passing can share that with their manager in a way that their manager’s going to understand?
So I think for us, we try and create different routes for employees to have those conversations. Because not every manager is built to be able to do that effectively and I think we have to recognize that some leaders and some managers just won’t be comfortable with that. And so what we’ve tried to do at Acacium Group is to build different route and different channels for employees to have those conversations in a psychologically safe space.
So to give you a few examples of that, we have mental health first aiders. They sit in all parts of our business and our employees can contact them at any time, just for a conversation. We’ve got wellbeing champions in all of our businesses. So again, they’re a safe psychological space. If someone feels that their manager isn’t the right person to go and talk to about a particular issue regarding their wellbeing or that they want to keep it a little bit more private and personal and they don’t want to share it in their immediate work environment.
So we try and have some networks where we create that safety for employees to have those conversations in a way that’s comfortable with them, without it needing to be just their manager.
I’m going to ask anyone listening live if they want to comment or suggest things that work things that don’t work in their workplaces around this issue. But I’m going to ask the question to you first Sara. We talked before we went live on air about what were perhaps the early stage versions of wellness and care in the workplace, which were yoga events, trying to have wellness days, meditation, unmasked things that were perhaps done online for those of us who worked from home during the pandemic. And many of these initiatives started in the pandemic. Many others started before that, where organizations decided to ban fizzy drink machines and snack bars and replace them with granola bars all around and fruit. What works, what doesn’t work when it comes to some of those things? Which I think most of them are listening to a conversation about wellbeing. I think that’s how organizations have reacted. What’s your experience? Does some of that stuff work? If so, what works and what doesn’t work?
Yeah. And we did the same thing. We have fruitful offices, we have movement Mondays and wellbeing Wednesdays, and lots of social connection groups. We use our internal social media platform for like minded people to connect together, whether it’s because they love walking or because they share a love of their dogs and their pets. And I think they’ve absolutely all got their place, but I don’t think they’re the solution to the problem of how do we help people cope become more resilient and have the tools in their personal toolkit to deal with change. So I think they’ve got their place. I certainly know in my organization, if we were to remove any of them, people wouldn’t want to see those sorts of initiatives go. We had had a little kind of session in our London office where puppies were brought in and there was puppy therapy and people absolutely love it because it’s a social connection and it’s a social connection around things that people share an interest in.
Of course, physically, we want to make sure people look after themselves, get enough exercise, eat as well as they possibly can. So we’ve not taken any of those things away. I think they all have a place and a space in the workplace to look after people. But I think what we are really exploring at the minute is that that’s part of the solution. It’s not all of the solution and there’s something deeper than that, which is around how people experience their work, how they find joy in their work, whether their work is meaningful to them and whether they’re empowered to take control of their work environment in a way that enables them to manage their work in a way that works for them.
So I think all of those initiatives, if that’s the right kind of terminology to give them create a great workplace, of course they do. But I think what we are really turning to now is, but does that really make the difference or differentiate us or solve the problem? And I think the conclusion that we’re coming up with is there’s something deeper than that, that is much more of an emotional connection than some of those initiatives.
So for me, I’d definitely keep them, but I think that was just the starting point of the conversation and exploring how wellbeing and change that we’re all experiencing is interwoven.
You mentioned resilience and reminded me one of the presenters in our platform Dr. Mary Collins, who is a chartered psychologist herself, a few years ago, we met for tea in Dublin, five, six years ago. And she was working on a project in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, where she was looking at the analysis around students who were now called Generation Z as one of the labels given to this group based on when they were born. And their studies at the time showed that this group had record low levels of resilience and there was a generational aspect attributed to that or a correlation certainly which the generation for whatever reasons in the Western world. And that resilience, perhaps when you start with the generation is maybe expanded into just all of us with the Monarch dies, we’ve a war in Russia, you’ve got economic depression, you’ve lots of things happening, different people’s lives.
How do you build resilience in professionals? Because we’re talking about people who are not in school anymore, they’ve left academia for the most part, they’re in a workplace. And again, how do you do it and how much of even that is the employer’s call it responsibility. I know we talked about you have to teach someone to fish and they have to build resilience, but how do you do it day to day? What does it look like? Is it online sessions? Is it classrooms? Is it providing funding for them to go find it themselves? Is it all of those things?
Yeah, well, we’ve tried a few different routes. Definitely there’s a training element to it. And I think having people in a room talking about that rather than typical training delivery and allowing people that sort of psychologically safe space to explore what works for them, what they’d like to see, what they don’t. There’s definitely a place for that. We’ve just reinvigorated some workshop sessions on resilience for those people in our organization, for whom they feel that would benefit them.
So I think there’s an element of that because building that resilience is often based on mindset, how we approach things, how we choose to deal with things, how we recognize the triggers that will be different in everybody and explore some of those coping mechanisms of things that you can deploy and skills that you’ve learned to help you cope better. So I think training’s definitely got its place. It’s certainly something that we offer within our organization. We’ve also had some external coaching as well. So we had a professional who offered some group and individual coaching sessions based on resilience. And they were really, really well received just that sort of small group of six people being able to talk, share and learn from each other was really valuable.
So we’ve had people that we’ve brought in that are specialists in that area. And we’ve done that as well, which has worked really, really well. We’ve got a number of things around the business that people can turn to. I mentioned our mental health first aiders, our wellbeing champions. And I think the other thing that we take really, really seriously is employee feedback. So we do have a culture of feedback and the culture of, I think of open conversation. And we listen to that feedback very carefully and try and really understand and unpack what employees are trying to tell us so that we can put mechanisms in place to deal with that.
And I think back to the point about one size doesn’t fit all, I think there is a variety of tools that are needed because not everything will suit everybody all of the time. We also have an employee assistance program, which is a global EAP for us, which all of our employees can use if they need to pick up the phone and talk to somebody and that they’ll be pointed and sign posted in the direction of other benefits and services that might be able to help them.
So I think in the same way as we have a variety of wellbeing initiatives, because different people need different things at different times and will engage in different ways. So too with resilience, we try to build a broad offering of support mechanisms and things that will help employees in ways that suit them.
Simon’s asked a question on LinkedIn, how do you designate the mental health first aiders and wellbeing champions within the business? Great question. How do you identify who should be those people?
Yeah, so we don’t identify them, they volunteer. And we are overwhelmed with mental health first aiders. There is a real appetite for people to want to take those roles. We try never to turn anybody down on the basis that they volunteered. So our job is to facilitate their training and to enable them to fulfill that role in the business. And the way that we capture those volunteers is quite often through new starters joining the business. So we have a sort of an onboarding process where we talk to our new starters around wellbeing generally, mental health first aiders specifically, and what we offer to train people to do that. And I think we are just privileged. We have a really keen, enthusiastic group of mental health first aiders who are passionate about what they do. They create a safe space and we do that at a group level so that people in one part of the business can very easily access mental health first aiders, who might by day job work in a different part of the business.
But it’s all by volunteers. And we’re just incredibly lucky that I think we catch people as they join us. And we just open up that conversation.
And that might be a requirement actually. Somebody doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my team, I won’t see day to day, but I want to help me. And that privacy. Another topic that often gets brought up around this issue is how do you adjust your reward system, your compliment systems, both to incentivize the right behavior, provide flexible options for folks, but also make sure that you’re not unintentionally driving KPIs that perhaps might promote poor health.
So many organizations would have realized in the last couple of years that they have inadvertently rewarded hard work in terms of extra hours. So like, well done Sara, she burnt them midnight oil last night and you got it over the line. I’m moving to a culture to go, that’s not good. And we don’t want you to do that. And previously we would’ve signaled nice job for working late or working the weekend, just trying to change the culture to go, please don’t promote that. You’re signaling that this is what we want others to do. And this is not what we want because it’s not part of our philosophy or even in the reward structure, making sure that you are designing reward structures that incentivize the right behavior, not the wrong behavior. Are providing benefits that allow for more flexibility. Have you explored some of those things, found some of those things in your business?
Yeah, absolutely. I think any business has to drive performance. That’s what keeps as all in a job at the end of the day. But I think there’s a real cultural element to that. So one of the things that we have done this year is we’ve appointed a culture and inclusion director who looks after all of our activity in the diversity and inclusion space, engagement, wellbeing, and social value space to try and bring all of that together. Because so much of that activity is all connected to wellbeing. It’s around the culture of the business.
I think we’ve got a really clear purpose and a real clear set of just three values. And one of those values is putting people first. Another is always by your side. And I think genuinely the leadership team try to lead the business by those values. We weave that through all of our communications. We weave it through all of our policies. We weave it through all of our learning and development activity. So it’s a real constant through everything that we do, that we bring everything back to purpose and bring it back to values. And I think that can go a long way to really embedding the culture that you want to see.
Of course like any business we have those times where that midnight oil needs to be burnt. A job needs to be done, something has to happen. But I think as leaders, it’s making sure that isn’t the norm and that they can go that extra mile and will do so willingly when it is genuinely needed for a one off unique business purpose. I think when it becomes the expected and when it becomes the norm, then that’s culturally, when there’s something that we need to think about, we do drive and we do incentivize our teams both to perform, but not just our sales team and our recruitment teams, our staffing teams, we equally reward and recognize all of the support functions as well.
So we have a specific set of awards that are designed for the back office functions and the support functions to make sure that they feel valued in that journey as well. I think we look long and hard at the hours that people are working, any additional hours that people are doing. And I do hear around the business leaders actively encouraging their teams to log off and switch off to not be contactable when they’re on holiday, if that suits them and if that’s what they choose to do.
So I think when it comes to building that into the culture, absolutely that is the responsibility of managers and leaders. And that is something that we really can be responsible for and take care of is creating that right culture, respecting those differences, acknowledging that some people may choose to have a phone on when they’re on annual leave, but other people just absolutely want to switch off. And I think it’s a real different way of coaching managers because in times gone by we would’ve coached managers to be fair and consistent. And I suppose what I’m sort describing there is that concept of being equitable, that it doesn’t have to be the same thing for everybody because everybody’s circumstances are different. People are at a different time of life, have got different things going on inside and outside of work have got different personal drivers and personal motivators. So I think to keep that balance, having that sort of psychologically safe space, that culture of trust where people can genuinely say, this is how I want to work. And this is what works for me personally, and for managers and leaders to respect that.
So I think that trust and that respect crucial to building a culture where everything doesn’t have to be the same, but it does have to be equitable.
I know from my perspective, I look at some of the legislation that some of European countries have brought in over banning the ability to message after hours or weekends or on vacation. I’d be more stressed not being able to access the information. I want to be able to choose what to do with it, not feel pressured in a workplace. But again, I think we see it too often as only one way. People absolutely don’t want to be able to see stuff in the evenings or weekends, or I think it’s the difference might be just, they should never feel compelled to action that stuff, but want different things. Some want to see the information. Some don’t want to see the information. To your point around it isn’t a one size fits all.
When we talk about this careful balance of being people focused and performance focused, the thing is a careful balancing act. And talk to me about the business case for all of this. At the end of the day, whilst you and I are going to do this kind of thing, because it’s the right thing to do, stakeholders investors in an organization, shareholders, they want to know this is a good thing to do typically measured by performance and measured by numbers. It’s not why, again, people like ourselves do it necessary. But what is your understanding of the business case of having this kind of a focus on wellbeing, a focus on care? Does it drive those business benefits in your experience?
Well, I think first and foremost, globally, we are experiencing the challenge with attracting great talent and in our businesses in Australia and in the US, the challenges are the same as they are in the UK in terms of finding and securing talent. And certainly one of the things that we’ve experienced over the last 12 months is the first question is no longer what’s the salary, what’s the bonus. The first question is how are you going to take care of me? How are you going to make sure that my wellbeing is prioritized? And how are you going to give me, or empower me with the flexibility to work in a way that works for me. And that is absolute sort of empirical evidence that our talent attraction team will tell stories about.
There is a shift in the talent market where it’s no longer acceptable to tick a few boxes just to say, you are doing the right thing. I think great talent is now really testing businesses because they have choice. They can choose where they want to go and work. In lots of the developed countries particularly, there’s more jobs than there are people. There’s really key skill shortages and talent shortages. And so we’ve almost got this sort of perfect storm of coming out of a pandemic, having had the biggest kind of social and workplace experiment ever with working from home, moving back to a different model of working and a different relationship between the employee, the employer home work. That’s shifted forever in one way, shape or form.
And I think the talent that we all want to bring into our businesses is changing that narrative. So I think for me, that’s one of the first business reasons as to why we’ve moved away from doing some initiatives that are helpful to really thinking a bit more deeply around how do we really care about people and recognize that wellbeing is different for different people in different roles, different countries and at different times of life. And how do we really think about that?
So I think the talent debate is front and center of all of that. Of course, then nobody wants to lose people. So if you’ve got the culture that thinks that they’re entering into a workplace that really puts people first, that’s always by their side and that wants to care and develop and nurture great talent, but when they arrive, it’s somewhat different. There is no hesitancy in walking straight back out the door because people will vote with their feet. And there’s a business cost to that. There is a cost of turnover and a cost of lost talent and additional pressure that goes on to teams when talent leaves an organization, there’s a time to competence of bringing new people up to speed in a role. And all of those have got absolute, tangible, quantifiable business financials attached to them. So I think that’s one of the other narratives.
I think genuinely, and certainly we see this in our organization, our parent company and our stakeholders and shareholders are putting ESG, so environmental, social and governance metrics right at the heart of the business in a way that we’ve never seen before. So not only is talent on one side telling us what they expect from us as an organization, we’ve also got shareholders on the other side, also adding to that narrative and saying, we expect you to be a responsible and sustainable organization, and that has a value creation to it in a way that perhaps wasn’t before.
So I think the ESG agenda along with the wellbeing agenda has sort of moved on from ticking some boxes to say that you do some things to really embedding it into our culture and thinking about how we make it part of the fabric of who we are and part of the fabric of our culture. It’s just how we do things around here. So I think for me, those are three sort of real business drivers, attracting talent, making sure talent stays with us and doesn’t leave. And then the external business narrative from shareholders and investors where it’s front and center of their investment conversations.
How do you measure it all works? How do you know, month to month, quarter to quarter that you’re making progress?
For us, there’s a number of ways that we measure it. I don’t think there’s one way that gives you a definitive answer. Certainly our engagement survey. So we do an annual engagement survey. Of our engagement survey we split five of those questions into really measuring engagement and the commitment and the emotional connection that our employees have with our organization. So that’s one way of measuring it. But within that, we also have experienced questions as well. And a section of that is all around wellbeing. So we again can take feedback, not just in terms of numbers, percentages, and scores, but people really want to give us their verbatim feedback.
We did a midyear survey about six weeks ago and we had in an organization of about three and a half thousand people. I think we had somewhere in the order of about 9,000 comments across all of our wellbeing questions. So I think if you’ve got the right culture, then your teams and your people will be quite comfortable in sharing their thoughts, their feelings, their feedback, their suggestions, and wanting to engage with the business on that journey.
So that’s a number of ways in which we measure it. Of course we measure turnover the same as every organization does and will. And I think it’s a blend of all of those together. I think that’s where human resources is really also moving from that database approach to analytics and insights and blending some of those indicators together to try and understand a deeper picture around what that really means for us as an organization.
One of our live listeners has a great question. Sara, do you think we need a direct ROI for this or is doing the right thing enough for you?
I think fundamentally it’s doing the right thing. I think for me and for my business, that is at the heart of what we do because that aligns so strongly to our values and our purpose, the business that we are, the sector that we work in. So I’m not an advocate of return on investment because I think some of it is intangible. If you try to measure every single thing in terms of a return on investment for a particular initiative, I think we’d struggle. But if you look at the overall business picture, so if we look at our overall business performance, we look at our engagement surveys and within that our wellbeing surveys, they’re all indicators that what we are doing is moving us in the right direction. So I’m not a massive advocate around a return on investment per initiative, but I do think it’s really helpful for leaders to be able to draw insight from the data that’s around us to know whether what we are doing is what employees want.
It’s the perfect balance between the engineering brain, which might push for pure measurement to maybe the HR brain, which look at the culture and the feeling, the sentiment in the business as well. Sara thank you so much for walking us through the wellbeing journey that you’ve taken the business through the last couple of years, what you’ve learned as a team and an organization. I think it’s a real guideline or playbook for others to perhaps use. If they’re looking to mature their playbook if you like, around employee engagement and wellbeing, which does, as you’ve already demonstrated, deliver the results though nonetheless.
I’m going to ask you one more question if you don’t mind Sara, and we ask this question of all our guests who come on this show and that is to leave our audience with one additional piece of advice. And perhaps it’s related to this topic, perhaps not, perhaps it’s something that was passed down to you by somebody else, or it’s something you’ve garnered by yourself through your career. What advice would you leave our audience with today?
So I think probably something around changes is the only constant and the world is going to continue to change both within the workplace, outside of the workplace, in our personal lives as well. And so thinking about how we deal with that and how we equip the people that we work with to deal with that, I think is probably for me one of the things that we are thinking about most. So I think in terms of kind of advice, what I’ve really learned over the last year or year and a half is to move away from a standard set of things that you expect everybody to engage with and to recognize that you need a broad spectrum and a blend of opportunities, initiatives, solutions, cultures, because we are all individual and we’re all different and we all respond and react in a different way. And so I think as business leaders, my bit of advice is we need to think an awful lot more deeply around how we create an inclusive organization that celebrates difference, but also help our managers develop the skillset to be able to lead people differently.
I think you don’t have to eat everything at the buffet to have a great meal.
And we’ll pick different things. And it’s better than going to the restaurant that serves one meal, which is perhaps what we’ve been trying to do for too long and it has worked.
Sara, thank you so much for your wisdom, your advice. It’s been an absolutely pleasure to have you on the show. I know your super busy, you’ve got a lot of challenges in the businesses. You’re solving a lot of challenges, but no doubt more to go after it. We looked at you back again to talk about more of your insights and again, hear more about your fantastic career today. Sara, thank you so much.
Thank you for having me.
A pleasure. And thank you for listening, it’s been a pleasure to have you join us, whether it was live for your questions and thanks to those who have posed our questions, George, Simon and others today live on the chat. If you want to do so live to our next guest, you can do so by joining us live when we broadcast on a Wednesday morning, afternoon, evening, depending on where it is in your jurisdiction, you can find out more by going to socialtalent.com/the shortlist.