Well being people hero

Total Rewards Leaders: Executives Aren’t Aligned on Critical Well-being/Talent Linkage

In a recent Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) gathering of total rewards leaders, an informal poll asked group members this question: How aligned are your business and HR leaders on the idea that employee well-being is a critical piece of achieving your talent objectives?

About a third of those present claimed total alignment with leaders, but the largest percentage—more than half—said they were only somewhat aligned. Or, as some pointed out, somewhat misaligned.

As discussion ensued, several TR leaders confirmed that conversations about the importance of well-being were taking place in their companies, though actual alignment remained questionable, and the term lip service was murmured.

Disinclined to call into question the sincerity of organizational leaders, one TR group member speculated that the issue might not center so much on awareness of the criticality of well-being in talent matters, but that the real stumbling block was leaders not understanding the connection and not knowing what behaviors they were meant to evince in support of it.

Aspirations and reality are different, the group concluded, acknowledging that most organizations are, in fact, a work in progress when it comes to views and actions related to workforce well-being.

Well-being is a total rewards priority

That work will continue to be in progress for total rewards leaders, according to those who contributed their thoughts to i4cp’s 2023 Priorities & Predictions research. The report centers on the top imperatives voiced by members of i4cp’s six boards—working groups of senior leaders across core HR functions. Along with focusing greater attention on workforce well-being, other key priorities reported by members of the Total Rewards Leader Board included:

  • Responding effectively to the ongoing challenges of an uncertain economy
  • Assessing equitable compensation and pay transparency
  • Customization of compensation and benefit strategies

As the TR leaders who attended the recent meeting understood, employee well-being is a vital driver of success across every business unit and function of an enterprise. In order to deliver their peak performance on the job, individuals must feel that they can bring every aspect of themselves to work and feel respected, included, and that they belong. Further, sound physical and mental health are foundational to workers’ productivity.

i4cp’s Holistic Well-being Model

Our six-element model encompasses these aspects of whole-person well-being:

  • Physical
  • Mental/emotional
  • Financial
  • Career
  • Community
  • Social/relational

For details, download: i4cp’s Next Practices in Holistic Well-Being

When well-being receives top-down support from organizational leaders who understand its role in producing business results, as well as participation and advocacy from managers and employees, companies and their workers are positioned to succeed. 

A constructive and engaging daily employee work experience also includes the knowledge that employers genuinely care that employees are physically and mentally healthy, and that they aren’t adversely affected or compromised by any other well-being issues.

Total rewards leaders’ strategies to advance well-being this year

After sharing stories on their alignment issues, the total rewards leaders who attended the recent meeting on workforce well-being traded ideas on ways to handle their challenges effectively.

Because the economy has constrained budgets for many business functions—including total rewards—leaders agreed that funding for new well-being programs and initiatives is meager or nonexistent. But that reality isn’t hobbling their efforts. Rather, their brainstorming produced well-being-enhancing strategies that are likely to require few monetary resources. Several examples include:

  • One practical workaround noted by attendees is “doing a better job of leveraging internal communities around common goals related to well-being (inclusion, belonging, health matters, etc.).” Specifically, expanding the number of employee resource groups (ERGs/BRGs) offers a viable strategy without demanding significant additional funding. TR leaders concurred on the need to pay attention to and encourage attendance in the groups, and to monitor the degree to which executive sponsors take their roles seriously.
  • Measurement related to well-being is necessary in order to make data-driven decisions, but also to keep a finger on the pulse of shifting employee needs and their reactions to existing organizational efforts. Most TR leaders involved in the discussion favored use of employee engagement surveys and short pulse surveys to sample opinions. One attendee worked with a vendor to field weekly polls. The group agreed that a regular survey cadence is helpful. Other measures noted: well-being program participation, employee assistance program (EAP) utilization, healthcare trends, and vendor-supplied data.
  • Finally, getting leaders onboard is an important component of well-being success originally surfaced by i4cp’s research. As noted, one of the TR leaders attending the meeting mentioned executives’ lacking understanding of the importance of well-being and the supportive behaviors expected of them. Both points were reported by i4cp as key stumbling blocks to workforce well-being effectiveness. Consequently, TR leaders have a role to play in educating and coaching senior executives to gain buy-in and build their role-model capabilities.

Along with working groups and select events centered on workforce well-being, i4cp’s website offers an Employee Well-Being Series featuring a variety of reports, case studies, and relevant data on this business-critical issue.

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.