Do you think Leaders Influence Staff Wellbeing?
I read an article today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) that inspired me to write. Workplace wellbeing is a passion of mine and in answer to my own question – Yes Leaders do Influence Staff wellbeing!
In her article for JRF Helen Barnard focuses on Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP speech earlier this week discussing welfare reform. It primarily focuses on worklessness, disability and getting people into work. However, it strikes me that some of the core principles mentioned on worklessness do apply to Leadership. He said about work:
“It provides purpose, responsibility, and role models [for children]”.
Does that apply to workplace leadership? Aren’t all members of staff seeking purpose, responsibility, and role models in the form of effective mentoring or coaching?
He went on to say work is more than a salary, it helps develop self worth and self esteem, work keeps people healthy and promotes recovery.
The Rt Honourable MPs speech made reference to employment practices when staff go off sick. Citing that too many employers fail to keep regular contact when their staff are off sick, don’t recognise the importance of staying in touch and this is a “damaging cycle”. What wasn’t mentioned in the speech is that many illnesses are progressive, stress is a process not an event. It doesn’t just happen overnight, leaders miss the signs, and the impact of organisation culture and leaders on staff wellbeing can not be underestimated.
Helen Barnard reminds us that work is generally good for our health and this is supported by Dame Carol Black in her research Working for a Healthier Tomorrow Review of the health of Britain’s working age population.
This got me thinking about leadership, organisation culture and the purpose of the businesses / organisations we run.
“Employers should not underestimate the role that better management and engagement of employees can have on the wellbeing – and ultimately productivity – of their workforce.” – Dame Carol Black
Organisations quite often think they have a good wellbeing strategy by putting in place Alcohol programmes, Food Awareness, Stress courses, Smoking Cessation etc. But that just touches the surface. Wellbeing should be integrated as part of the Organisation Culture, Learning and Development, and Leadership – From joining an organisation to leaving. In fact I’d be bold enough to say it shouldn’t need a label – it is about:
- Strong Leadership, with a
- Clear Vision, that is
- Clearly communicated and shared, and
- Encourages staff engagement.
Strong leaders communicate the good and bad, they encourage feedback, and most importantly they are authentic. They demonstrate authenticity through self-awareness. They know the impact they have on those around them, and inspire engagement by encouraging the people around them to communicate in a way that will maximise their impact and influence both within the organisation and the leadership team. They truly believe that success is through people and align recruitment, retention and development strategies to getting people that will engage and develop within their organisation. Organisations that have high turnover and absence levels often say “they don’t fit” “the organisation has out-grown them” “they’re a square peg in a round hole”. May be if you’re hearing that more and more, it’s time to look at leadership and culture – after all you’ve invested in recruitment, development and engagement, to lose them is costly to finances but has a massive impact on the organisation culture and those left behind.
Change is the only constant we can rely upon in life and in business, so to create a culture that supports change and makes staff feel secure and involved in it is pivotal to leaders successfully influencing staff wellbeing. Communication is key in this. It is critical to managing change, managing performance and developing staff to respond to new requirements and expectations. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt and observed over the years it’s in the absence of communication and feedback, people create their own reality and that can take on a perspective of it’s own.
In 2010 I undertook a research project into the impact of organisation culture on wellbeing here are some of the key findings:
- Management and Leadership issues
- Lack of Strategic Direction
- Pace of Change
- Personal Issues
- Bullying & Harassment
- Trapped within an Organisation that has outgrown them
- Work-life Balance
I would argue that all of those reasons for wellbeing issues within the workplace are cultural and can be addressed by effective leadership.
The Government can put in place lots of initiatives that are great in theory but we as leaders and employers play a crucial role in keeping staff well in work. The Fit for Work initiative works on the principle when people are are absent from work of “what can we give you that can keep you close to your job?”
As leaders we could turn this on it’s head “How can we engage and develop you to retain the energy, self esteem and self worth you had when you joined us, and to help you to grow into your next role”. Wouldn’t it be great to have a workplace acclaimed for healthy staff and promoting recovery!