Why creating genuine wellbeing is vital for attracting staff

Suhail Mirza, Global Wellness Speaker and Coach, and Olly Harris, Page Outsourcing’s Global Managing Director

Offering a working environment and culture that boosts wellbeing has become vital for companies looking to hire top talent. For many candidates, wellness has become a more important career factor than salary.
Global wellness speaker and coach Suhail Mirza and Olly Harris, Page Outsourcing’s Global Managing Director, discussed this change. It’s a trend that has led to a sharp rise in the need for corporations to closely assess their social and environmental, as well as their business impact.
When defining wellness, Mirza said that the World Health Organisation’s 1948 definition of health was still a great starting point: “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
He also pointed to the work of Shekhar Saxena, a mental health professor at Harvard University’s public health school, who has talked about “a sense of meaning, purpose and connection” when defining wellbeing. “That’s a brilliant definition,” said Mirza, “and a way to encompass the broader context in which recruiter organisations find themselves: not just being a transactional business.”

Wellbeing: the new hiring factor

The rise of the importance of wellbeing when hiring has been quick. “We’ve moved to an era where Goldman Sachs say people can have almost unlimited holiday,” said Mirza. “A few years ago, we’d never expect that.”
Working at Page Outsourcing, Harris has noticed the expectation change. “Newer workers now and ask: ‘What is this company trying to achieve? What are their ESG (environment, social and governance) credentials?’ They expect answers before they accept a role. And with the market as it is, candidates can pick and choose.”
Mirza and Harris agreed that one of the biggest factors influencing employee wellbeing was the ESG footprint of a company: whether they give back to society and the environment. “Poppy Jarman, the global CEO of MindForward Alliance, has talked about the idea about there now being ‘interconnectedness’,” said Mirza. “People are demanding this, and there’s a huge link between ESG and wellness factors.”
Companies lagging behind in ESG risk losing out on talent – and it’s not a gap that can be bridged by simply hiking salaries. Harris gave an example of a recent PageGroup hire, who joined the company because of they could see it was a firm making genuine positive impact with ESG efforts, from mentoring programmes to zero carbon emission targets.
Harris: “Choosing a role has become about values. Can you walk through the door of your office knowing that your company has the same values?”

Day to day wellness

Employee wellbeing can derive from all aspects of a company, from big picture ESG efforts to day-to-day logistics.
Harris said that offering flexible working to new hires has become a big wellbeing factor, and that employers who don’t offer this will find their talent pool diminished. Mirza said that while being able to work from home can indeed improve wellbeing, companies might need to work better to ensure good communication.
“You still need to treat the individual as if they all they are part of your team,” he said. “There has to be consistent check-ins. Pick up the phone – you don't always have to send an email.”
Other simple measures can be taken to improve wellbeing and make workplaces more attractive. “At PageGroup we’ve given every employee an extra half day off to use as they see fit, for their mental health,” said Harris. “If you want to play golf, fantastic. If you want to go for a walk, wonderful. That’s one small way that a company can lead by example, getting employees feeling good about these things.”

Taking the wellness reigns

When it comes to wellbeing, leading by example works on a company and individual level. Harris said that PageGroup’s use of the internal messaging tool Yammer aids this, with much staff discussion about wellness taking place on it.
“Senior people in the business lead by example here,” said Harris. “On World Mental Health Day our group COO posted something personal about how he’d struggled. 20 years ago, you would have been seen as weak to air your worries, but that was powerful. But you don't have to show vulnerability, it's about being authentic.”
Mirza agreed that “we should have compassion as part of leadership… to have empathy. My hero happens to be Muhammad Ali. He spent his life having a coterie of people having to tell him: ‘You're the champ’. If he needed that, it's OK for us to say, ‘You know what, whatever we're doing, we need recognition and positive reinforcement.”
This authenticity, Mirza and Harris agreed, needs to be extended from the individual level to a company’s branding and communications. Customers, investors and candidates can quickly tell when companies don’t back up their wellbeing marketing with substance.
“When candidates are choosing an employer, they look through their ESG and what that brand stands for,” said Harris. “Crucially, they will look for examples of how they are upholding those values.”
“I've seen a lot of employers put wellbeing-related measures in a silo: the idea of inclusion sits here, wellness sits there,” added Mirza. “That's wrong. We need to see seamless interaction between, for example, inclusion and the other business functions. The link between inclusion and wellness is and should be treated as foundational.”

The future of workplace wellbeing

With increasingly mental health and wellness-attuned members of Generation Z entering the workforce, wellbeing and ESG is going to become more and more important when hiring. Companies should view satisfying these demands as a positive challenge that helps drive their organisation to do more good.
“This generation is more comfortable talking about mental wellness and not stigmatising it,” said Mirza. “So, in the labour market it's going to become even more central to everything that we do.”
He added: “It's not just a moral imperative, it's a social and commercial imperative.” 

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