Although New Year’s Resolutions tend to be short-lived and thus are not the best way to effect lasting change, the aspirational feelings that prompt them are valuable and should not be dismissed. As we turn the page on the previous year and begin a new one, we feel a natural impulse to start fresh and to renew.
New Year’s Resolutions typically focus on habits of action. But what about habits of mind? How we view the world goes a long way toward determining our success. And these short-lived resolutions are usually about individual health. But what about organizational health?
The last year has been a harsh reminder to business leaders of the importance of organizational health. Our individual and collective resilience have been tested in new ways. We have come to see more clearly than ever before how individual and organizational well-being are deeply intertwined.
I suggest business leaders adopt three broad goals, which are not something to check off your to-do list and more about a leadership mindset. Taken together, they are a lens for looking at and thinking about the health of your organization and employees that addresses two central challenges:
- How to prevent burnout
- How to promote flourishing
MORE FOR YOU
When I initially work with a client, I encourage them to start by getting a baseline sense of the company’s current state regarding stress. And the beginning of the year is a perfect time for any organization to do so. You can hire a consultant or have HR survey employees to determine their most significant stressors and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. Additionally, find out what employees need to alleviate that stress: such as support from their manager, more realistic workload, flexible hours, coaching. It is important to include multiple-choice and open-ended questions that allow employees to express what is on their minds. Employees want to have a dialogue about how to make their organizations a great place to work; too often, however, employers are not listening.
Taking the pulse of your company will allow you to tailor a holistic approach to building a resilient culture that works for you. This package will likely include stress management training and tools, mindfulness workshops, and other traditional wellness offerings. Be sure to regularly dialogue with your employees about stress management and burnout, formally through surveys and informally through check-ins. The higher the degree of uncertainty your organization faces, the more feedback you need from employees.
Encourage work-life engagement
What is frequently called “work-life balance” I prefer to discuss as work-life engagement. Our lives are not a pie chart in which adding to one piece necessarily means taking away from the other. Ideally, every aspect of our lives—our work, hobbies, time with friends and family—should energize and engage us. Each piece of the puzzle should complement the whole, not compete with it.
You want your employees to thrive holistically in the same way. The pandemic has driven home a truth that we should have known all along: that when an employee is struggling in non-work areas of their lives, it will affect their work. Employers have learned to step up and be partners in helping employees address these issues, and they need to continue to do so.
Your check-ins with employees and direct reports should be about more than work. Show concern for them as a whole person. You will get the best out of them when they feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. And by giving them flexibility over when and where to work and making sure they have sufficient opportunity to recharge, you can help keep them fresh and engaged in all areas of their lives.
We are just starting to grasp some of the factors driving “The Great Resignation”—an unprecedented number of employees leaving their jobs, sometimes mid-career. Yes, Covid-19 related concerns about the safety of returning to the office and about child-care were undeniably at play. But at a deeper level, many employees have been undergoing a fundamental reassessment of what matters in their lives. Purpose has always been an important and underrated element of workplace satisfaction. Going forward, being a purpose-driven organization will be essential to attracting and retaining top talent.
Employees are happier and more engaged when they feel their work means something and when they feel good about the company they are working for. As a business leader, you must be crystal clear about the values your organization stands for. And the start of a new year is an ideal time to revisit your mission statement, touch base with your team, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Values and vision evolve: Is it time to reassess and renew your organization’s vision? Are you taking meaningful steps toward diversity, equality, and inclusion?
Employees want to feel meaning and purpose on an individual level as well. A significant part of a leader’s job is to provide context: to help employees understand how their specific role fits in with and contributes toward your shared purpose as an organization. Additionally, employees experience more meaning in their work when they feel they have a high degree of autonomy. Do you delegate and give employees absolute discretion, giving them space to exercise their creativity and take chances?
We can measure organizational health by traditional wellness metrics, which are certainly part of the picture. But more than ever, organizational health is going to be determined by the vitality and resilience of your organization’s culture. If work is not just a source of income, but also a source of engagement and meaning and fulfillment—and if employees get the sense their employers are active partners in their well-being—they will stay, and they will thrive. And so will your organization.