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How Employee Listening Can Promote Well-Being

How Employee Listening Can Help Promote Well-Being

In recent years, employee well-being has emerged as more than just a workplace buzzword. It's become a critical metric, directly impacting a company's success and bottom line. Organizations everywhere are grappling with declining engagement rates, labor shortages, and narrowing operating margins. The mental health landscape, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, has further compounded these challenges. Stress, loneliness, and depression have been earmarked as modern-day epidemics, affecting not just individuals, but also the organizations to which they belong. These challenges have created an urgent need for real solutions — tactical steps, innovative programs, and operational redesigns — that organizations can implement to combat this looming crisis.

In this article, I’lll provide an overview of the current state of the field, addressing the underlying systemic issues such as psychological safety, transparent communication, flexible work models, and proactive support systems. These are not mere elements of a "nice-to-have" company culture — they are essential, ensuring the survival and growth of an organization in an increasingly complex and demanding workplace ecosystem. Our focus here is on understanding the broader picture, setting the stage for more tactical steps, innovative programs, and operational redesigns that can be implemented to combat this looming crisis — which I’ll address in a subsequent article.

Discussions about topics like well-being need platforms: places where they can be nurtured, expanded, and transformed into actionable strategies. That's where events like this year’s Consero Healthcare HR Forum come into play. There, I had the privilege of moderating a Knowledge Bridge session titled, "Healthcare Incubator: Methods to Enhance Employee Well-being." Drawing from a rich palette of experiences, ideas, and practices, industry leaders came together to share, learn, and collaborate. The insights from this session not only hold value for healthcare, but transcend industry boundaries, promising a brighter, healthier future for employees everywhere.

Understanding the Well-Being Landscape

Positioned at the nexus of individual and community health, the healthcare sector — one of my areas of consulting expertise — offers a unique vantage point from which to observe and understand the prevailing issues impacting modern society. With a mandate to heal and protect, this sector is the first to grapple with the ramifications of socio-economic shifts, and so becomes a lens through which we can interpret broader societal changes.

The recent Surgeon General's Advisory released in May of this year, is quickly becoming a defining piece of literature to describe this precise dynamic. Specifically, the report highlighted the disturbing rise of loneliness, isolation, and the resulting mental health challenges post-recession. Economic downturns aren't just about money; they're about lives. Job losses, financial insecurities, and the resulting instability have a cascading effect on mental health. Loneliness, often exacerbated by the digital age's paradox of being “connected” yet isolated, has been identified as a health risk equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Depression, further fueled by these challenges, has burgeoned into a crisis, demanding immediate attention.

As leaders, the revelations of this report aren't just alarming statistics; they are urgent calls to action. Our role transcends managing organizational bottom lines or ensuring operational efficiency. It now encompasses a moral and societal obligation: to identify, develop, and implement tactical strategies that can counter these challenges. Whether it's by introducing robust mental health programs, creating platforms for genuine human connections, or fostering an environment of psychological safety and trust, the responsibility is ours.

The Foundation of Well-Being: Psychological Safety

Within our discussion group at the Consero Healthcare HR Forum, there emerged a consensus that reverberated with unwavering clarity: psychological safety stands as the bedrock upon which all other measures of well-being are constructed. Before we embark on solutions addressing physical health, mental resilience, or organizational productivity, there's a foundational requirement to ensure that individuals feel safe, respected, and heard.

Psychological safety, as explained by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, is the belief that one can voice their ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes without fear of punishment or humiliation. In a healthcare context, where stakes are high and margins for errors are thin, this becomes even more critical. Medical professionals, administrators, patients, and families — all need to know that they can express themselves without retribution.

Now, how do we create an atmosphere of psychological safety? One of the most potent tools at our disposal is proactive communication. This isn't merely about being open to feedback or being approachable. It's about setting clear expectations, right from the outset. Proactive communication goes beyond reactive responses; it's about anticipating concerns, addressing them before they become issues, and ensuring that everyone in the loop understands the what, why, and how of any given situation. 

One simple yet powerful approach is using statements like, "Here's how you can expect to hear from us." Such a statement does more than just inform. It establishes a promise, a protocol, and most importantly, it sets a tone of transparency. When teams, patients, or stakeholders know the frequency, medium, and nature of the communication they can expect, it removes ambiguity and uncertainty. It reassures them that they are part of a system that values clarity and respects their need for information. This is also where employee listening — such as the crowdsourcing via Perceptyx’s Dialogue product that was used by BJC HealthCare to improve their safety culture — makes a critical difference, ensuring that every voice becomes part of the solution.

The pursuit of employee well-being is more than just an ethical imperative — it translates into tangible business benefits, including enhanced job performance, productivity, engagement, and more. If you're keen to explore innovative tactics that leading organizations are employing to promote physical health, mental vitality, and overall professional growth, stay tuned for the next installment in our series on well-being.

Perceptyx Can Help You Understand What Your People Need

Regardless of whether you're trying to figure out which well-being resources are needed or want to understand the efficacy of your existing approach, employee listening delivers data-driven insights to guide your approach. Discover your organization's current level of listening maturity, and learn how to align your efforts with employees' needs by taking our free interactive maturity model assessment or reaching out to Perceptyx for more information.

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