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6 strategies for supporting employees that actually work
The world of work is changing faster than ever.
In the last three years alone, employees have weathered plenty of challenges. A global pandemic, a racial and social justice movement, and a brimming mental health crisis. And, not to mention, adjusting to completely new processes, tools (Zoom what?), and working conditions.
Employees are combating burnout while also trying to maintain some work-life balance. And for working parents or those caring for aging parents, stressors are often exacerbated. Things like childcare needs, hybrid and remote work arrangements, and battling caregiver fatigue and burnout are prevalent.
And the future still brings uncertainty and unknown. With a potential recession and economic uncertainty, employees’ well-being is being put to the test.
Unfortunately, we know that 55% of employees are in a state of languishing. Languishing means that they aren’t feeling mentally strong, not flourishing, and are not ready to surf the next unexpected wave. In the face of ongoing change and uncertainty, a massive portion of your workforce could be at risk of slipping down the mental health spectrum without the right support.
But supporting employees is more than just providing benefits, a good paycheck, and a fulfilling job. At BetterUp, we believe supporting employees starts with looking at the whole person.
It means taking a holistic approach to meeting employees where they’re at. It means that now, more than ever, organizations need to invest in the personal and professional development of their people. To fully tap into the full potential of your workforce, employees require wraparound support.
Why is supporting your employees important?
Employees need whole-person support because they are whole people. What happens in our personal lives or in our emotional lives affects our productivity, our performance, and our interactions at work.
Our own physical pain or illness, worries about the health or safety of loved ones, financial concerns, long-term career, and life planning. All of this doesn’t just stop when we walk through the office door or log onto our work computer. The past few years have strained our already inadequate skills for productively managing ourselves and our stress.
A December 2021 survey found a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to providing support. How so? Well, 47% of human resources leaders say their organization supports their employees’ well-being. But when employees were asked, only 24% felt adequately supported.
But why is supporting employees important? What difference does holistic employee support make? We’ve outlined five reasons why supporting your employees matters:
- Better employee engagement. According to Gallup, there are five key drivers to employee engagement. They are purpose, development, a caring manager, ongoing conversations, and a focus on strengths.
When employees feel supported in these key drivers, they’re more engaged. This spills into other positive benefits for your organization. But in order to meet these needs, employers need to support the whole person.
At BetterUp, we use the Whole Person Model to help measure these key components of employee engagement. It’s a science-backed assessment that essentially measures mindsets and behaviors. This method to helps lead to enhanced well-being, peak performance, increased resilience, productivity, and ultimately, increased overall employee engagement.
- A thriving company culture. When employees feel supported, company culture thrives. But in order for employees to feel supported and connected to the company culture, they need to feel connected to their colleagues.
At BetterUp, we’ve studied the impact of connections in the workplace. According to our data, 43% of employees don’t feel connected to work. But when employees are connected, the company culture benefits. Employees see a 92% increase in professional growth, a 59% increase in more positive relationships, and a boost in well-being and goal attainment. It makes for an overall better work environment that helps employees get one step closer to reaching their full potential.
- Better work-life balance. Supporting employees requires equipping them with the skills and capabilities to maintain a healthy work-life balance. For many employees, this means implementing boundaries, saying no, and prioritizing things like caregiving and parenting.
But when organizations support employees’ needs outside of work, everyone benefits. Programs that support life outside of work promote productivity, reduce turnover, and improve employee mental health. But new research from Harvard Business Review also cites that supporting work-life balance can help improve your organization’s workplace diversity, too.
- Improved mental fitness. Investing in your employees’ mental fitness is a must-have when it comes to providing support. Improved mental fitness brings a host of benefits to both the employee and the organization.
In fact, employees with strong mental fitness are 31% more productive, have direct reports that are 78% less likely to leave and are more resilient. Improved mental fitness also increases job satisfaction by 22%.
- Improved employee retention. Overall, the benefits of supporting your employees lead to one, huge benefit: increased retention. Employers are looking for ways to hold onto their top talent while also developing employees to grow within the organization.
And by holistically supporting their employees, employers see an increase in employee retention.
NetApp, a BetterUp customer, shares why supporting employees started with looking at the whole person. Here’s why NetApp uses coaching to help provide holistic support to its employees.
6 ways to support your employees
Supporting employees starts with looking at the whole person. Of course, employees need fair compensation. Employees need health benefits and access to quality healthcare. Employees need professional development, learning opportunities, and the ability to grow.
Employees also need flexibility, especially with the rise of hybrid and remote work. Employees need their financial, mental fitness, and well-being needs met. And each of these needs requires a holistic approach to supporting employees.
If you’re ready to start supporting your employees, here are six ways to get started.
6 ways to support your employees
- Provide quality employee benefits and fair compensation
- Offer professional development and learning opportunities
- Invest in leadership development
- Make mental fitness a priority
- Build psychological safety and trust
- Foster a sense of belonging
1. Provide quality employee benefits and fair compensation
Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, employees need their basic needs met before they can reach the next level in their transformation journey.
For organizations, this means providing quality employee benefits, healthcare providers, and competitive compensation packages. It’s important that employees and their loved ones feel supported by their organization. This is especially important when it comes to taking care of health and well-being.
In recent years and living through a public health crisis has shown the world the importance of taking care of ourselves. It starts with being able to access quality care to equip employees and their families with the resources they need.
2. Offer professional development and learning opportunities
Employees want to learn, grow, and develop. When employees have opportunities to grow, so does the growth of your organization.
How are you offering professional development opportunities? Do your employees have ways to continue to learn and invest in their personal and professional growth?
At BetterUp, all employees receive a yearly stipend purely for learning. This learning stipend can be used for anything that helps the employee learn and grow. For example, I’ve used my learning stipend on everything from writing workshops to pottery classes. But beyond the experience itself, it shows me how invested BetterUp is in helping me grow as a whole person.
3. Invest in leadership development
Managers are being asked to do more than ever before. With employee needs becoming more nuanced and complex, managers need to adjust accordingly.
Managers have an incredible influence over the employee experience. We know that managers can make up for up to 70% of the variance in employee engagement. We also know that managers need the support and tools to be able to flex to their full potential.
Investing in leadership development means that leaders need to be inclusive, future-minded, and empathetic. Leaders need to make decisions faster than ever, adapt to change quickly, and give their team members meaningful feedback. But leaders also need to be able to receive feedback, ask for help, and reward hard work.
We’ve studied the impact of investing in leadership coaching. Our data found that leaders who were coached reported lower stress, higher purpose, and higher resilience after just four months. Check-in with your managers on how you can better support their development.
4. Make mental fitness a priority
Mental health issues have become more prevalent than ever. Exacerbated by external environmental factors, we're on the brink of a mental health crisis. It’s more important than ever that employers do their part to take care of their employees’ mental health.
But taking care of your mental health shouldn’t be reactive. In fact, getting proactive about building mental fitness can actually help. It helps deter mental health issues from worsening (or developing in the first place). Of the people who start out feeling stuck, 77% will significantly improve their well-being state by 3-4 months with personalized support.
Consider how coaching can help build the mental fitness of your workforce. With BetterUp, you can provide personalized support for each of your employees to meet them where they’re at.
5. Build psychological safety and trust
Employee support requires a deep sense of psychological safety and trust. For employees to feel fully supported as whole people, there needs to be a built trust with the organization.
Leaders have incredible influence over building trust with their employees. From creating safe spaces for tough conversations to attentively listening, workplaces need to build trust.
6. Foster a sense of belonging
In order for employees to truly feel supported, they need to feel like they belong. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace is a must-have for any organization. Not only does it help to also build psychological safety and trust, but it also has business benefits.
Inclusive leadership is a good place to start when building belonging. In fact, we’ve found that employees are 50% more productive, 90% more innovative, and 150% more engaged when they have inclusive leaders. Inclusive leadership also results in 54% lower employee turnover.
How can managers help support their teams?
Let’s be honest: managers have a tough job. As mentioned, more is expected of them than ever. And while we’ve scoped out some key components of supporting employees above, it really does require keen attention from your managers.
So, for any manager, you might be wondering how you can better support your team, especially during challenging times. Here are five tips to keep in mind.
- Get good at giving and receiving feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is critical to any organization’s success. But feedback is often boiled down to an individual level. Do your managers know how to give effective feedback?
Whether it’s an end-of-the-year performance review or ongoing real-time feedback, get good at it. You can lean on your coach for help in practicing giving (and receiving) feedback, too.
- Get to know your employees as whole people. Your employees are more than just workers. They have personal lives, families, loved ones, challenges, successes, and dreams — yes, even outside of work. How well do you know your employees? Are you making meaningful connections with them?
- Develop your future-mindedness. For managers, we know you’re navigating plenty of change and uncertainty. And honestly, that change isn’t going away anytime soon.
But by looking ahead to the future with a sense of pragmatism and optimism, you can build resilience. Your team will thank you for your sense of future-mindedness when things get tough.
- Facilitate connections. Connections have a massive impact on the workplace. Are you making time for team-building exercises? How are you fostering open and meaningful communication between team members? For virtual teams, are there ways you can be more intentional about facilitating connections?
- Support your working parents and caregivers. Ask any working parent: it hasn’t been easy to balance work and life, especially in these last few years. Our data shows that working parents would be willing to take a pay cut for better mental health benefits. And the mental health needs of working parents are more nuanced than we could’ve realized.
What does that tell us? There’s a gap that needs to be filled. And oftentimes, it starts with supporting your people as a manager.
Start supporting your employees
Caring for and supporting your employees is no easy task. It requires wraparound support that touches on different aspects of the employee experience.
But with BetterUp, your employees will benefit from individualized coaching that’s personalized to them. Consider how BetterUp can help build a workforce that’s prepared for whatever the future holds. Together, we can create a place where employees thrive.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.