Wellbeing @ Work...a Business Imperative and a Moral Obligation.

July 15th, 2019

Photo of Nancy Vitali

By Nancy Vitale, Managing Partner, Partners for Wellbeing and Senior Faculty Member of the Josh Bersin Academy

I am very excited about the launch of the Josh Bersin Academy’s (JBA) “Wellbeing @ Work” premium program. Employers today need to consider the holistic wellbeing of their people. I view this as both a business imperative and a moral obligation, and this Wellbeing @ Work program will help practitioners better prepare to address these needs from a multi-dimensional perspective.

Regarding employer’s moral obligation - the Gallup Wellbeing Index, which measures perceptions across five elements of wellbeing, highlighted another year of decline in the overall wellbeing of Americans for the second year in a row. Regarding the business imperative - there is a growing body of research highlighting that investments in wellbeing result in a significant return on value. The JBA learning platform provides one example of this from the Journal of Occupational and Employee Health citing that “effective wellbeing programs saved organizations an average of $353 per employee, per year in recouped productivity.” Society is struggling with the wellbeing of its citizens and more and more people are turning to their employers for support and help - it’s becoming a growing expectation for organizations to remain competitive in the talent marketplace.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, employer’s are now the most trusted institution. That trust comes with much responsibility - especially as employer’s contemplate their role in supporting their people’s holistic wellbeing needs. Through my network and connections to Human Resources leaders around the world, I know that wellbeing is garnering attention and investment from many progressive companies.

In my previous role as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Genentech, I witnessed first hand the positive impact of intentional and thoughtful focus on supporting holistic wellbeing. It’s no longer enough to simply provide competitive health and wealth benefits/perks. Each dimension of a person’s life needs support, attention and care. People don’t hit the pause button on their needs for meaning/fulfillment, social connection, physical/mental health, financial security and family/community engagement when they show up to work. Being well @ work, well @ home and well in life are connected and integrated into an elaborate tapestry supporting the human condition.

At Genentech, we aligned our resources and programs to address these different dimensions of wellbeing. In my experience, the support of more traditional areas of human resources - such as diversity and inclusion - can be reexamined through the lens of wellbeing to provide substantial lift to engagement and productivity. An example of this is how the Employee Resource Groups (called Diversity Network Associations or “DNA” groups for short) at Genentech came together to organize “pods” or cohorts of approximately eight people each across the various networks. These pods were originally set up as a forum likened after Sheryl Sanberg’s lean-in circles. What was created in the beginning as a peer group in support of people’s career needs eventually grew into a mechanism that forged relationships across the functional spectrum, supporting the social and community wellbeing needs of participants as well.

For today’s employers, addressing the needs of a diverse talent pool necessitates a focus on holistic wellbeing. I am looking forward to engaging with many of you on the Josh Bersin Academy platform to enable a greater understanding of what holistic wellbeing entails as well as the learning of practical steps employers can take to make a positive difference for their people - and in turn, for their organizations.

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