Intentionality: Act intentionally to include. Address systemic challenges and dismantle barriers. Reduce the risk of exclusion by asking for any needed accommodations. Planning for remote/hybrid meetings so everyone can participate. Consider accessibility and language needs too.
The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa M. Ong.
Lisa M. Ong, PCC, CPA, is an award-winning executive coach; speaker,; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategist and consultant. Prior to founding Wishing Out Loud LLC, she was a national diversity director in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at PwC. Lisa designs DEI strategies to attract, retain, develop, and advance diverse talent by focusing on minority retention and advancement efforts, as well as growing inclusive leaders at all levels to foster a culture of belonging.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical, and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?
When I work with organizations, I focus their wellness initiatives around cultures of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). I consider myself a talent gardener, meaning that it is my job to help companies grow their internal talent and cultivate a culture of inclusion. A core element of “belonging” is psychological safety. We measure this by looking at the data that supports the employee experience, such as employee engagement surveys and communication feedback surveys. The primary action drivers that support high levels of employee engagement are rewards and recognition. Wellness is creating a greenhouse where everyone can thrive and grow. Measuring wellness is similar to assessing the environment and having the gardener cultivate the soil and tend to the roots so that all of our plants thrive equally in a safe ecosystem. We can measure wellness in an office ecosystem by analyzing the input data and key performance indicators. Belonging requires that all of the employees are getting equitable access to what they need.
Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?
I focus on the “ROI (Relationships, Outcomes, and Impact) of DEI” ™. My approach goes beyond traditional Return on Investment because we are capturing the Relationships, Outcomes, and Impact of diversity efforts! For example, employees who have more meaningful connections across an organization report a greater sense of belonging. The deeper the roots and the connections, the greater ability to navigate strategic priorities. The ability to collaborate and bring people together via strong, tended roots that welcome new ideas and perspectives yield greater efficiency, excitement, and energy. When we create workspaces where employees can bring their full selves to the table, they can unleash their super skills and create the best environment for the best work. By understanding the needs of the organizations, we can enhance employee engagement scores, lower turnover rates, and increase sense of pride and belonging with that organization. When employees feel they belong- supported, valued, rewarded and recognized, it shows up organically with their posting unsolicited social media stories of the positive impact. They bloom and attract more talent with their candid testimonials.
Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?
Another way to look at this is “what is the potential cost of inaction?” During COVID, employees felt disconnected. If employees do not feel cared for, your cost to the organization could be huge. When morale is low, the risk of employee detachment can fuel an environment that does not care as much. The overall level of energy and commitment contagiously drops. Investing in employee wellness involves not only money, but time. The job of employee satisfaction does not always need to be on the leaders. We have seen great benefits with peer-to-peer recognition programs that give targeted public praise and are passed along to supervisors. Employees need to feel heard for their specific contributions and individual accomplishments. When they see a deserving,pivotal connector on the team celebrated, it sparks a ripple effect to raise the bar for all to strive to do better.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
I advise organizations to Listen, Learn, then Lead with TLC: Transparency, Leadership by example, and Caring™. Be transparent on your website and your social media about the impact of your culture, core values, and your programmatic support. Encourage your employees to share their stories through Glassdoor posts, their own organic social media posts, and even organization hashtags.
It’s important to consider giving externally and channeling corporate and community service in wellness. If your organization says it cares about wellness, consider if you are doing community service that showcases that. Internally, an easy way to showcase that you support health and wellbeing is to make healthy snacks an option in the vending machine or communal pantry. It doesn’t just have to be programs; it should be a way of being! How are you building a structure that supports these values in the organization? Does the company point out its wellness spaces (quiet rooms, mothers’ rooms, refillable water bottle stations, inclusive restrooms, etc.) when giving office tours to new employees? Office tours are a great way to showcase leadership by example and caring in action. Small things make a big difference, and organically seeing how employees interact and thrive in their workspace speaks volumes. Examples include flexible seating, equitable access to sunshine/windows, plants on desks, etc.
We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on-demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.
- Mental Wellness: Time-blocking to give employees uninterrupted time for deep-thinking work.
- Emotional Wellness: Additional grief time/days off, and spontaneous companywide PTO due to goal-achieving.
- Social Wellness: Peer-to-peer mentoring and enhanced mentoring programs where new employees can connect based on shared interest and identities. Volunteer Paid Time Off to serve 16 hours a year for charity.
- Physical Wellness: Walk-and-talks and building outdoor spaces for focus and connecting with nature.
- Financial Wellness: College debt repayment programs, financial retirement planning resources, elder care concierge, pet insurance.
Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?
Attracting talent and customers, having a highly engaged workforce allows organizations to be seen as an employer of choice, and a company that cares about employees, clients, and communities. Companies dedicated to DEIB also get more ESG investment and potentially lower cost of capital. Companies with reputations as great to work for also win more awards and get free public relations as a result.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
LinkedIn Learning and other technology for on-demand learning is an excellent tool to assist organizations in continuous learning for their employees. Additionally, offering virtual forums in the hybrid workplace that include everyone can be a great selling point for potential employees.
Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?
Listen and Learn! By listening to your employees, you can get a better understanding of their wants and needs and create a work environment that they enjoy.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
Graphic: All rights reserved by Wishing Out Loud LLC
Companies that are a great place to work and provide employees with psychological safety and a sense of belonging and well-being all have five things in common. By using the EACH acronym and Leading with TLC, you can create a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
The EACH acronym and Listen. Learn. Lead with TLC (Transparency, Leadership by Example, and Caring) means:
- DEIB Education and Self-Awareness. Educate yourself and your deep personal biases. We are all human. We all have brains that are biased. Widen diversity, equity, inclusion lens to everyday interactions and habits to become part of the way we work better together.
- Intentionality: Act intentionally to include. Address systemic challenges and dismantle barriers. Reduce the risk of exclusion by asking for any needed accommodations. Planning for remote/hybrid meetings so everyone can participate. Consider accessibility and language needs too.
- Upstander and Allyship at Work: Commit to challenge biases and assumptions. We have to sharpen our equity lens to identify and notice when there are inequities where some people do not have equal access to the same resources, and stretch assignments to be able to learn and grow.
- Humility: Humbly lead with integrity and heart We anchor on humanKIND. We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes. We have to learn how to offer a sincere apology. We must be 100% committed to doing better. As Brene Brown says, it is not about being right but getting it right.
- Leadership presence: Listen. Learn. Then Lead with TLC (Transparency, Leadership by Example, and Caring)TM — This is my approach and what I ask of my clients who work with me. We start with active listening and being fully present. Listen to our internal voice, energy, and get grounded first. Listen for what is said and not said. Approach employees with curiosity, an open mind, and to understand with respect. We ask questions with compassion. We guide and teach, not tell. Ask if they need empathy or and how are they coping.
Graphic: All rights reserved by Wishing Out Loud LLC.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
The fear of missing out! Companies are all getting behind DEIB because the risk of being left behind is real.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
The best way to connect with me is at wishingoutloud.com, on LinkedIn, or on Instagram.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.