A 401(k) and medical coverage are nice perks that most employees receive from their employers. But what about a one-week, all-expense paid vacation at a company-owned Swiss chalet, service sabbaticals, or elder care? Believe it or not, midsize businesses are increasingly applying such out-of-the-box thinking to attract and retain employees in an era where job-hopping is the new normal.
Unfortunately, opportunities to take advantage of these perks fall to the wayside during times of growth. Many business leaders know that it’s just not feasible to tell customers that you can’t deliver on their expectations quickly because you don’t let your people work on the weekend. When you are fighting for every client, you are going to do what it takes. This challenge leads to managerial behaviors and decisions that neglect the psychological and social well-being of their employees.
How can business leaders balance the realities of running a midsize company with perks that keep employees engaged?
The importance of balancing employee well-being and customer needs
According to the SAP white paper “Creating Resilient Cultures: Why Businesses Need to Invest in Employee Well-Being,” this leadership trap can introduce profit-stealing risks such as:
- 4% increase in healthcare costs, nearly three times the rate of inflation worldwide
- US$2 trillion lost from chronic illness, injuries, stress, and disengagement
- $1 trillion in reduced productivity due to depression and anxiety disorders
- $411 billion in costs introduced by sleep deprivation
Well-being programs are often thought of as a “nice thing” to do for the workforce, not necessarily a way to improve business operations. However, most companies realize that this notion is untrue as soon as they base well-being policies on core business values, goals, and practices. Even a decision to start the workday 15 minutes later allows employees to attend to their personal needs and arrive to work safer and stress-free, which can pay dividends in the workforce’s ability to meet customer demands productively without costing a penny.
The secrets for a culture of engagement and growth
Nurturing a positive workplace culture is even more relevant for midsize companies because they don’t always have the same heavy-hitting benefits and resources available to throw at it, compared to their larger competitors. But they must also adopt intelligent, fast, and affordable best practices, including the following, for pinpointing culture gaps, workforce needs, and improvement opportunities.
1. Asking and listening to people of all roles continuously
Feedback collection and analysis is a simple and affordable way to impact workplace culture significantly. HR or managers can sit down with employees to discover honest concerns, performance obstacles, career paths, and ideas that can help operations run better.
Desired changes may seem small to the business, but this is the kind of leadership that creates the cultural shift organizations need to align with their employees’ well-being as a guiding principle. Remember, employees quit, underperform, burn out, or disengage when organizational practices – including unsupportive leadership behaviors, stressful team dynamics, and toxic job conditions – are insensitive to their needs.
2. Know when to ask more from employees and how to reward them
Having to pull a weekend in the office to fulfill a client’s last-minute request can happen sometimes. But knowing that you will be encouraged to take Monday off so you can get a break makes those sprints possible. It is when we expect that employee to show up all week, after going strong on the weekend, that we start to compromise both their own well-being and also their work product. We are not machines; we need breaks from intense work to recharge and reset our minds and bodies.
Business leaders need to think about how they can reward employees for going beyond their job requirements. Opportunities such as flexible office hours or shift schedules can encourage and empower employees to do more without neglecting their personal responsibilities.
3. Evolve the culture to fit changing workplace attitudes and market needs
The culture of a workplace cannot become a static system of operational requirements. Instead, leaders should continually think about the type of culture they want to create and grant the freedom to change as new personal needs emerge. The key is to provide a level of connectedness that keeps people engaged professionally and fulfilled personally.
For example, a variety of studies have indicated a rise in feelings of loneliness, social isolation, and meaningless relationships across all demographics, which directly affects workplace performance. Businesses can help fill that gap by hosting gatherings such as happy hours on Friday nights, family-friendly outings, or special-interest after-work clubs.
5. Consider workplace fit when choosing new hires
Creating a culture that helps grow the business takes more than just hiring the best and brightest people available. In fact, recent studies from Google show that hiring for culture fit makes teams far more successful than hiring the best and brightest all the time.
It’s critical to develop an organization that works well together and shares common interests or values, even though employee backgrounds are diverse. With a more well-rounded approach to recruitment and hiring, HR teams can consider how candidates fit in with the rest of the company, creating a community that makes employees feel connected to the company.
Culture evolves with empathetic change, not big-ticket perks
At the root of every business that continues to grow, there’s a workplace culture that ensures every employee contributes. Fostering such a positive, impactful culture may not happen overnight, but it can be done with a commitment to making small, consistent changes that oftentimes require no or little financial outlay but promote mental, social, and emotional well-being.
Invest in employee well-being to drive optimal results for your growing business. Read the SAP white paper “Creating Resilient Cultures: Why Businesses Need to Invest in Employee Well-Being.”