Changing the business plan – working together on wellbeing culture

Changing the business plan – working together on wellbeing culture

by | May 15, 2019 | Measuring Wellbeing

With less than 8 weeks to go before year-end for most Australian businesses, it’s that time of year again when we see the mad cycle of harried performance reviews and business planning.

This year, we expect a growing number of organisations to be talking about where and how wellbeing fits into these processes. Whether top-down or bottom-up, the best approaches to business planning will give attention to the role of wellbeing and how to enhance it.

“Wellbeing shows up in metrics – employee engagement, customer satisfaction, share prices and business performance. And of course, the opposite is true too – when the wellbeing of the organisation doesn’t have the care, attention and visibility, blocks in flow may start to appear making it much harder to achieve outcomes and resulting in poor commercial and cultural metrics.”


– Vanessa Fudge, LeadingWell (from “Taking Wellbeing Viral – Calling to a New Level of Leader”)

So if business and performance hasn’t been as good as you’d hoped for this year, you’re wondering how on earth to pull a rabbit out of the hat for next year, or you’re just worried that your people are buckling under the pressure and you won’t be able to keep on getting blood out of a stone… then read on!


Top-down & bottom-up approaches to improving organisational wellbeing systems & culture

What’s the wellbeing culture of your organisation like?

Is it psychologically safe, respectful, inclusive and supportive of its people?

Is it considerate of the challenges and pressures of leading a balanced life in this fast paced ‘always on’ era?

It’s worth thinking about how your organisation might prioritise wellbeing for its people – not simply in pursuit of a competitive edge (higher wellbeing  = stronger business results) but because it’s also the right thing to do in terms of its accountability for shaping the workplace environment, policies and leadership that drives wellbeing (or stress, anxiety, lack of balance and burnout).

From a top-down perspective, we are seeing progressive organisations address wellbeing at a strategic level. Discussions at board and executive committee levels are focussing on how to create a sustainable high-performing culture that is conducive to bringing the best out of its people, optimising engagement and performance and leading the way by creating a workplace environment that is attractive to the best talent and supportive of diversity in all its forms.

We’re also seeing a push to engage and educate all senior leaders in the importance of wellbeing as a driver of positive business cultures and outcomes.

Bottom-up, we are seeing a mounting backlash from individuals, even from the most committed, capable and driven – a growing resentment that work is overshadowing all aspects of our lives and is omni-present. We’re witnessing a ‘reclaim myself’ movement among the Gen X’ers, and of course the millennials have already got this sorted. They’re generally much savvier about managing their boundaries, some even voting with their feet and electing (despite huge talents and capabilities) not to work for employers or in sectors where the notion of a ‘balanced life’ is absent.

People are asking themselves, ‘How can I do next year at work without it taking as much out of me as this year?’

‘How can I be successful at work AND get enough sleep, exercise, fun and family time?’

People are becoming resentful about the sacrifices they’re making – recognising they can’t keep going like this, that things need to change, and they are reconsidering their options. Even if it’s not written into their plans, we can assure you that almost every one of your employees is worried about the lack of ‘me time’ and how they are faring.

Which brings us to….


Leadership in the era of a wellbeing epidemic

What’s the leadership of your business like?

Do you have leaders who are genuinely committed to and feel a personal responsibility to role-modelling and enabling others’ wellbeing? Who care as much about the inputs as the outputs… who are concerned with HOW people are working, not just WHAT they are delivering?

Leaders who walk the talk, leaders who are taking a stand in prioritising their wellbeing and encouraging others to do the same? Who are concerned about the wellbeing of their people and whether the demands placed upon them and the context in which they are working is doing them harm or bringing out the best?

Are your leaders promulgating a constructive and sustainable approach to high performance, or driving unhealthy and risky behaviours?

Leaders set the tone for their teams and what they do will be followed.


Leaders taking a stand – enough is enough

The best leaders are those who understand that these crazy relentlessly high-pressured times will see even the most resilient ultimately fall, and that stamina and perseverance are finite for even the strongest. They are taking a personal stand in helping to forge new ways of working – and shaping businesses that will thrive because their people are energised and innovative.

Do you have leaders who are rewriting the rule book on how to work in a world that is connected 24/7, where to do-lists and disruption are infinite (but budgets and resources are not)? Leaders who are championing the need for organisations to change policies on flexible working practices? Who lobby for what’s good for their people, and who feel accountable for ensuring the workplace and their teams are set up for success?

We’re not just talking about the physical workplace (though we’re all for natural light, some greenery, healthy snacks, water stations, and stairs – lots of them). We also want you to think about what your leaders can do in relation to the other aspects of workplace wellbeing – ensuring a work environment where:

  • Relationships are authentically respectful, trusting, supportive and fun,
  • Each person has a sense of purpose and has been able to identify some way in which their work holds meaning,
  • There is sufficient intellectual stimulation and opportunity for creativity for brains to feel alive and growing,
  • The amount of challenge is exciting and motivating not overwhelming,
  • Continuous learning and feedback are welcomed not feared,
  • Mental health and neuro-diversity are normalised and celebrated,
  • And there is encouragement to prioritise the non-work aspects of our lives.

These are the factors that we know drive wellbeing in the right direction. We have data from over 3000 leaders that shows it clearly.

This is not some utopian ideal. There are leaders who are already doing this, and there are others who want to but don’t quite know how.


Wellbeing-focused leaders are playing the long game

I can think of at least three CEOs I have witnessed in the last three months who have stood up in front of their senior teams and urged them to take wellbeing seriously – both for themselves and for their teams.

These CEOs acknowledge the toll that having a successful career can have. They shared their personal stories and vulnerabilities of it all being ‘too much’ and encouraged their people to take responsibility for wellbeing as a priority.

These CEOs are nobody’s fools; they know that for their organisations to be sustainably successful, relevant and alert to the changing world they need leaders and teams of people who are in good shape – emotionally, physically, mentally and socially. They’re not doing this for charitable reasons.

In addition to the commercial good sense of creating a sustainable high-performing environment, they are also enjoying stamping their own values on the culture. The best of them are focussed on wellbeing as a key tenet of their leadership legacy. They’re playing for well beyond this current financial year’s success – they’re playing for the future and longevity of their organisation.

Often, where we see leaders who are committed to wellbeing, it’s because somewhere in their own stories, they’ve come perilously close to losing everything. Whether that’s been a physical health scare, mental health, or stupid decisions or impaired performance arising from sheer exhaustion, there’s almost always a first-hand experience.

Wellbeing needs are universal to the human condition. We all have them. And whilst what each of us needs to be at our best is uniquely different in the minutiae of our lives, we all need to put our wellbeing at the top of our priorities. Without it we are impoverished in every sense.

Sadly, in addition to the 3 outstanding CEOs I’ve worked with these last few months, I’ve also seen organisations where leaders right at the very top have taken their own lives; where they have collapsed from exhaustion; where ill-health has triggered unwanted and devastating resignations; where hospital admissions due to burnout and addictions have been on the up.

“Accountability for the overall systemic wellbeing of an organisation sits primarily with leadership and it includes both commercial and cultural elements.

It asks of a leadership team to hold the entire wellbeing of their system in their hands and to act from a place that seeks to respond to what the organisational system and its people need from them.”


– Vanessa Fudge, LeadingWell (from “Taking Wellbeing Viral – Calling to a New Level of Leader”)


The role of CHRO/People & Culture/L&D in business planning for wellbeing

Typically, wellbeing sits with People & Culture, HR or Health and Safety functions or perhaps with a dedicated wellness function where educated staff, who are skilled at reading the organisation and its people, propose initiatives to raise the overall wellbeing of people in the company and hopefully create a feel-good factor around coming to work.

What has to happen this business cycle for wellbeing to cross these borders and become part of every leader’s conscious thought processes?

What’s your organisation’s opportunity to use the business planning and performance review processes to further the wellbeing agenda? To stitch it into the very fabric of your organisation’s DNA?

The spotlight is on CHROs to step up and push wellbeing front and centre as a business imperative for thriving in the age of disruption. Likewise, boards and executive committees need to ask the right questions about how the organisation’s senior leaders are coping and how they are being supported and encouraged to sustain themselves.

Leaders themselves need sufficient capacity and fuel in their tanks to lead the way in enabling and championing the wellbeing cause for their people, and individuals in teams also need to feel equipped to start doing a few things differently in FY20/21.

Perhaps we could also see a cascading of Jacinda’s Ardern’s approach to wellbeing budgeting – where capital is deployed only after its impact on wellbeing and societal outcomes is evaluated. Where leaders would be required to spell out in requests for funding how such expenditure will deliver against wellbeing indicators. What a concept.


The role of the individual

Wellbeing should be addressed at various levels – society, government, organisation, leader and team.

However, as psychologists, our firm belief is that ‘self’ needs to sit front and centre.

From the privileged vantage point of the business community, wellbeing is fundamentally a personal and subjective experience – a ‘state of being’ that is influenced by our unique circumstances, challenges and resources (and probably a heavy dose of our genetic make-up too).

Because of this, no one can ‘give us’ wellbeing and our wellbeing is unlikely to be perfected by interventions provided by our organisations unless they meet our very specific needs at the right point in time.

Each of us has to shoulder the responsibility for our own wellbeing.

We make the decisions about how we spend the precious 168 hours in a week, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. We decide what to consume, how and when to move, who to connect with, when to sleep and how often to check our devices ☺

(A wellbeing tip: work back from 168 hours and account for how you spend it now and how you might like to spend it… time is a finite resource – apply wisdom to how you use it).


GLWS as a framework for wellbeing business planning & performance processes.

We think the GLWS offers the right strategic framework for engaging, educating and promoting wellbeing. It has the breadth and depth to resonate and appeal to leaders at the very top of organisations, with concepts that remain relevant across the entire workforce.

Here’s how:

  • The GLWS Survey and Personal Reports have been instrumental in coaching leaders to identify and address their unique wellbeing needs, as well as educating and providing a language with which they can explore and enable others’ wellbeing.
  • The GLWS Team Reports have enabled intact teams to open up about their wellbeing challenges, and to hold constructive conversations about what the team, the leader, the organisation and the individuals are responsible for, and where the intersections sit.
  • The GLWS Group reports have enabled targeted and optimally engaging wellbeing interventions for entire cohorts of leaders going through leadership development programs, as well as being instrumental in providing insights to OD teams responsible for shaping workplace design, policies and systems for the future.
  • The GLWS Framework and supporting collateral offers a language and approach to educate and engage your whole organisation. It enlightens people about what wellbeing truly means, it positions it broadly and is inclusive of (but not restricted to) key concepts such as resilience, mental health and physical fitness. It encourages people to consider what might be missing or deficit and what might be enhancing and supporting their wellbeing. Each of is different, and yet each of us is the same. It’s complex and its simple, and the GLWS works with these tensions.

Who is responsible for wellbeing?

Ultimately, while we have the biggest impact on our own individual wellbeing, the ‘collective wellbeing’ is everyone’s responsibility.

That takes a concerted and coordinated effort – for and from ourselves, first and foremost, and then as contributors to creating the conditions for wellbeing for others around us.

So when you think about your goals for next financial year, have a think about how closely performance and wellbeing are linked – and what you can do to improve both.

Wouldn’t it be great to see wellbeing KPIs for everyone – from the CEO to the juniors – in this year’s goal setting?

See the GLWS in action now with a suite of sample reports

If you are a leader, or a coach working with leaders, you can find out how the GLWS works in practice by reviewing our suite of reports. Sign up here to get instant access.