Growth By Supporting 'Our People'

West Midlands Combined Authority

As the old Stylistics song goes, people make the world go round.  From an organisational point of view, people are often cited as 'our greatest asset' – so, people make organisations tick.

If we truly believe this, we need to make sure that we are fully and consistently focused on creating a fertile environment for our people to flourish. 

There is a good body of evidence that meaningful investments in employee well-being can lead to increased employee resilience, reduced sickness absence, and in turn, can deliver better performance and productivity for organisations. 

What do I mean when I say 'employee resilience'?  Essentially, I am talking about the ability of an employee to recover or stay well in the face of challenges.  It means an employee not just survives but thrives in stressful environments.  The thing about resilience is that it also has an influence over an employee's capacity to be both creative and proactive and it also supports employees' engagement with and commitment to their work.

In addition, it is well known that mental health issues and MSK issues are the 2 biggest sources of sickness-related absences in the workplace. Recent evidence has pointed to a rising national cost of MH on employers - £56bn cost in 2021/22 from £45bn in the previous year.

Sounds like a convincing argument for employers to focus on employee well-being and resilience! 

Numerous (but not enough) trailblazing employers have robustly championed workplace wellbeing – recognising its benefits to their organisation's performance, growth and sustainability, in addition to the wider potential benefits to local communities.  However, it unfortunately took a pandemic to push workplace well-being to the very pinnacle of the business agenda for many employers. 

From a personal point of view, whilst working in an operational role in the NHS, the pandemic transformed the way that we worked. At points, it ushered in elements of quicker decision-making, a more amplified staff voice on what might work in service delivery, quick deployment of new ways of working (including the use of technological solutions) and a relentless focus on staff sickness.

Not all of the new ways of working were perfect and not all were sustainable, but all were instructive of 'the art of the possible.'

So, the unquestionable detriment of the pandemic did also lead to some positive changes. However, the bad news is that, according to the CIPD in April 2022, 2 years on from the start of the pandemic there has started to be a slip in the management focus on health and wellbeing – with a specific reduction in the focus on employee mental and physical health.

Surely, we cannot just go back to the pre-pandemic "business as usual"?

The challenge for us is to hold firm in our commitment to workplace well-being commanding a high-priority focus. For employers to maximise the benefits of this focus, the agenda must be embedded in the DNA of the organization – in leadership, culture, systems, processes and in people management.

The West Midlands Combined Authority has developed and continues to roll out Thrive at Work, which is a holistic workplace wellbeing programme, which particularly targets SMEs.

This programme can help employers to develop and systematically implement evidence-based workplace well-being arrangements, which meet organizational needs, and which are independently supported and accredited.

Whether you adopt the Thrive at Work programme or use another workplace wellbeing programme, let's make sure that we invest in environments that help employees to flourish, because this will, in turn, contribute to organisational performance, productivity and growth. 

Onwards and upwards!