Promoting a Growth Mindset. By giving credit where credit is due, we can keep the outstanding and remarkable people on our teams and it would translate into a stronger culture, higher productivity, and increased revenue.

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 Liz Palma.

Liz Palma is the Manila HR Head of SafetyCulture. She has over 15 years of Human Resources and Talent Acquisition experience. Organizations that she’s worked with are a good mix of traditional companies and promising & eventually successful start -up companies. She is a believer that a good & effective culture in an organization empowers the employees and the leadership. Culture becomes the ultimate guide to their success and evolution. She likes the energy and openness in start up companies. But she gets fulfillment in her HR career that enables her to provide careers for Filipinos based on their skills & other capabilities.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

The first job that I had was heavily involved in sales and marketing training and it was not entirely aligned with human resources. Back when I started my first job in human resources, I realized that you can have entirely different approaches with work, and specifically with human resources. So I think what helped me to form how I manage work and how I become present when I’m at work, is realizing that you are passionate with what you do. When I finally practiced HR formally, I saw that interacting with people is key, a dedication and a commitment. So that made me realize that for me to become productive, for me to execute new concepts and fresh ideas, that is business impacting as well as employee impacting, I need to make sure that I address all the needs of the employees at the same time, balance the business interest.

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?

In SafetyCulture, how we define wellness is the ability of the employee to bounce back well from stressful experiences, not just in their personal lives as well as the business. We believe that if you are well mentally, physically, and emotionally, then you can efficiently balance your personal and work life. To help our employees with this, we have wellness programs that address the different aspects of our employees’ lives; such as financial, physical and mental programs that I will touch on a little later.

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?

As much as possible, we try not to have a corresponding number to measure the employee’s performance here in SafetyCulture. We try to measure it by their consistency in being able to hit their monthly targets and but mainly their ability to consistently embody one, if not all, of the company’s core values which are:

  • Be Bold, Bring Action
  • Better as a Team
  • Open, Honest Always
  • Think Customer

Part of the quarterly OKR review of our employees is how well they have embodied at least one of the company’s core values. Being able to constantly embody these values brings a positive impact to the organization’s productivity and profitability

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?

The key is preparedness and balancing the intention and impact. Before you implement any wellness programs, you have to assess each employee’s readiness to engage in a particular program. You can only implement so much wellness programs for the employees, but ultimately, if the employee is not prepared to engage in a particular wellness program, then its impact would not really be felt, and it would not be appreciated as much as you want it to. An example of this is when you try to implement a financial wellness program, but the majority of your employees are breadwinners, and they are starting from scratch. How do you expect them to invest in X number of shares if they are living from paycheck to paycheck? Lastly, you just must stay true as a leader. You don’t have to comply with the corresponding trends in the market. Just because it’s trending doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work. You must hear out your employees and really get a feel of what their needs are in order to implement the correct programs that will enrich your employees.

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?

We try to incorporate wellness programs into our hiring process by first assessing the roles that we need to fill. By then, we will have the correct information of what we need when it comes to their age range, demographic, experience, and background. After determining the right talents for the role, we see it to it that we will offer the appropriate benefits and wellness programs for their age and demographics. We also want to determine what it is important to the hiring prospects. For example, for fresh graduates, we want to determine whether they are looking for flexible benefits, like vacation leaves and sick leaves. We want to ask the question, “Do they prioritize the encashment of the sick leaves or do they want the leaves to pile up so that it can be used in the future?”

We also want to start looking into the trends now that Gen Z are coming into the workforce. Benefits like gym memberships for those who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As well as hiring a company chef to ensure that our packed lunch is healthy and full of nutrients.

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:
  • When it comes to mental wellness, we are offering the free use of an in-house psychologist to help address whatever is bothering you. It doesn’t matter whether the stress that you are feeling comes from work or from your personal life. Mind you, a lot of companies are already offering in-house psychologists; but I think where SafetyCulture takes the lead is this is not just a one-on-one session with our employees, our psychologist also offers group counseling sessions, wherein if there’s a need like for a professional to intervene with certain concerns or issues within the team or group, then somebody can do it for you and help out the team leader.
  • We are planning something new and innovative, but we haven’t implemented it just yet. We would like to have different mobile applications to be involved in the mental wellness of our employees like meditation apps that can be a good subscription option for companies and employees to enjoy.
  • Emotional Wellness:
  • We have yet to get a grasp on the perfect emotional wellness program for our employees in the Philippines. Culturally speaking, most Filipinos cannot easily disclose their emotions. You need to have a deep relationship with a person before they can fully trust you with their emotions. As an HR practitioner in the Philippines, this is the most difficult wellness program to come up with.
  • Social Wellness:
  • We have not coined anything official yet as part of our social wellness program but empowering our culture, especially that the Manila office is one of the biggest programs that we have in human resources. Our social wellness program actually starts during the time you are being assessed before hiring and this is the culture interview which is part of a series of interviews before you get hired. We have just started this recently and it’s more of getting to know the person who is going to be involving with a lot of things, and ensuring that they’re culturally aligned, and that they’d be able to gel well with the team because as an organization, you should able to make sure that a person will be happy and fulfilled with something that they are getting themselves into.
  • Physical Wellness:
  • Before the pandemic struck, we had all sorts of exercises like Zumba, to make sure that our employees are able to engage, even with their busy schedule, and their busy person. Secondly, our benefits are incorporated within the system. What does this mean? Some companies are very restrictive when it comes to the use of your sick leave — some companies require you to produce a medical certificate just to prove that you are sick. But what if you are just feeling under the weather? Would you still require your employees to go to a hospital just to produce a medical certificate? We have that culture of trust and empowerment that contributes to the employee’s work-life balance. If you need to recuperate and just have free, personal, and relaxed time, you can do it with an open discussion with your team leader or the manager. Lastly, we have the HMO insurance that is readily available for employees upon hiring.
  • Financial Wellness:
  • Based on the last survey we did on our Manila team, most of our employees are not yet seeking investment opportunities. Most of them are trying to save up. Although, we have gotten them started with financial wellness based on our program that gives them a share of the company. We give them unvested options upon hiring and these will vest completely after they have completed a 5-year tenure with the company. But we do have plans to tap into these investment opportunities once we see that our employees are indeed ready.

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?

I am proud to say that Great Place to Work® is proud to recognize SafetyCulture. 96% of employees at SafetyCulture say it is a great place to work compared to 53% of employees at a typical Global company. I would just have to say that you really need to invest in your people and continue listening to their needs in order to achieve success. That is our winning formula as SafetyCulture and we think if a lot of companies adopted our way of thinking, it would be most beneficial for them.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

Reskilling leaders is very critical for all organizations. It should be done often and early. Because we need to anticipate that talents are coming into the organization at such a fast pace so we need to make sure that all of our leaders are equipped to handle them, not just with skills, but also with the proper behavior that they show the people that is aligned with the company’s values. We offer in-house training that is focused solely on how to do things the SafetyCulture way. It is also very important that they do coaching based on timeline. What I mean by this is being more of a practical leader. This is where they can properly manifest and implement all the things that they have learned throughout our training sessions. We do not want our leaders to just be good on the theoretical side of things, we want them to succeed in practice as well.

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?

In order for an idea to be implemented well, it has to start with good communication. After this, it is vital to get the buy-in of the people who will be impacted by that idea in order to make it happen and start it really well. With our company’s great culture of communication, many ideas have come to life even from our newbies. You just really have to listen to each and every one of your employees.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

Improvement of Lifestyle Benefits. Employees want more than just a focus on their physical health but a focus on what matters to them personally. I see Lifestyle Spending Accounts becoming more popular as it puts the power of choice in the employee’s wallet. One that I know will become increasingly important is allowing employees to tend to be caring for others while integrating work (or in some instances, reintegrating). While companies are trending positively when it comes to working mothers being able to integrate their responsibilities as a mother, the pandemic showed us 1) this needs to get even more personal and 2) men are viewed just as critical with parenting as women. Additionally, more companies need to be better at the same when it comes to their workforce needing time for elder care and integrating this responsibility. Gen X, in particular, is taking care of their parents more and companies need to quickly respond.

Hybrid, Remote, and on-site work setup strategies for 100% of employees. All employers will need to have a good and effective plan in place for all three work setups in the coming years. This will be crucial in defining the “wellness” of your workplace.

Humanizing and Empowering Leaders. In SafetyCulture, it is important to remind your team that all of us are human including our leaders. Leaders becoming more open to communication will help make them more approachable, and in turn improve the workplace culture.

Fostering Inclusivity and Diversity. We respect where everyone comes from and as an organization that is growing exponentially, I am excited to work with a lot of different people from different backgrounds.

Promoting a Growth Mindset. By giving credit where credit is due, we can keep the outstanding and remarkable people on our teams and it would translate into a stronger culture, higher productivity, and increased revenue.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

I am most optimistic about the future of workplace wellness because I see more and more intergenerational conversations happening today in workplaces between Millennials and Gen X about workplace culture and business practices. One of the sources of workplace wellness is the capacity to learn from those superior to you. These two generations are the primary ages in management and executive positions, and there is much that they can change about how business was done, to make it more aligned to what we are hearing from Gen Z.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.