Do employers care and employees feel like they do?
Researchers from the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia, have been looking into the factors that are relevant to successfully promote both wellbeing and productivity goals within an organisation, a balance that can be put under special strain during external shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Today we publish early stage evidence about the role of authenticity when organisations are balancing wellbeing and productivity goals. The researchers looked at how actions employers took during the Covid-19 pandemic aligned with their values and priorities about staff wellbeing – and how this came across to staff.
Dr Magdalena Soffia, our work and wellbeing lead talks through the main findings…
As a quick response to the pandemic, various organisations started looking after the wellbeing of their employees more routinely, by implementing remote working practices and training managers to do so, or setting up instruments to monitor their employees’ wellbeing and asking about their needs. Our employee wellbeing snapshot survey was developed to help organisations measure their employee wellbeing as part of this response.
Researchers from Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, have been looking into the factors that are relevant to successfully promote both wellbeing and productivity goals within an organisation, a balance that can be put under special strain during external shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among other things, they have found that being seen as authentic in these efforts can play a major role in the success of any actions.
Researchers collected qualitative data from 5 organisations between December 2019 and November 2020, (pre- and post- lockdown). The five case studies selected represent differing firm sizes, sectors, and different stages of putting in place joint wellbeing and performance initiatives.
In exploring how actions taken by organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic aligned with their values about staff wellbeing, the researchers found that:
- Organisations that had a strong value for staff wellbeing and more advanced wellbeing strategies before the crisis hit, were more likely to respond proactively to the lockdown.
- Organisations at the early stages of putting in place a wellbeing strategy showed more reactive responses and were more likely to be viewed as inauthentic in their concern for staff.
- Organisations were more likely to be seen as authentic in their concerns for staff when there were:
- strong foundations of mutual support between leaders and staff;
- existing wellbeing services (e.g. wellbeing champions, mental health aiders).
- Corporate messaging about care and concern for employee wellbeing in times of crisis is not sufficient in itself to be regarded as authentic. It needs to be followed by tangible, continuous and consistent efforts.
This research reminds us that in order to be seen as authentic in our efforts we also need to build trust in leaders, through strong relationships and shared positive experiences. We knew from previous research that building some shared values and a sense of belonging does actually help organisations to fare better during recessions. In the same way, authenticity work enables organisations to adapt to change and to shifting concerns of employees and employers during a crisis.
But thinking and communicating that you care about your employees is not enough. Employers need to act on it and take useful, or at least well-intentioned, action when a crisis hits, actions that are aligned with their values and priorities.
If you’ve not done the work beforehand or only started recently it may be harder to be seen as genuine. Although, the researchers say, it’s always better to start somewhere!