The definition of well-being has changed dramatically in the last year and a half: from a purely physical concept to including the mental and emotional, with work-life equilibrium and boundaries emphasised.
At People Matters Total Rewards & Wellness Conclave 2021, Ashok Ramachandran, CEO of Schindler India and Nikhil Arora, Managing Director of GoDaddy, discussed how to balance people and productivity such that business can be made sustainable. The conversation, hosted by Ester Martinez, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of People Matters, surfaced a few key strategies around wellness, productivity, and how HR can be more impactful in their role.
The paradox of people, productivity, and pressure
“If there are no people, there's no productivity. And so, as a leader at a inflection point where I have to make that decision, it's very clear that it will always be people,” said Nikhil. “If you don't have great people and you don't care about your employees, there is no business.”
One extremely important approach is to balance the team, he said. Employers need to ensure that people are multidisciplinary – not so that they can do more work with less people – but so that they can substitute for each other to prevent burnout. Teams must be formed on that basis, where people are able to work together, fill in for each other, and support each other's well-being. It is not just a matter of skills; it is a matter of teamwork.
At the same time, there must be a practical consideration for all stakeholders, including shareholders, said Ashok. This is the other half of the paradox; even as we display empathy for employees, we must be considerate of the expectations of shareholders, and adjust compensation and benefits accordingly where productivity is affected.
Integrate wellness into work rather than making it an add-on
HR teams frequently fall into the trap of using 'fun' activities as a sticking plaster to replace the real work of changing workplace attitudes, perceptions, and culture. But all this does is take away yet more of employees' time without giving them happiness in return. Employers badly need to understand and avoid this pitfall, said Ashok.
“It is about asking people what they want. We for example did a survey asking our employees what can we do to support them emotionally, physically, financially,” he shared. And during COVID, he said, it turned out that emotional well-being for many workers was about receiving badly needed financial and medical help first and foremost – so that was what the company did.
HR and people managers can also be more impactful in their role, not by trying to create new things – but by bringing out what already exists.
“As a people manager, your job is to make sure that person is able to get the right conditions to be able to utilise those gifts and strengths they have,” said Nikhil. During COVID times, he explained, three major responsibilities had emerged that shifted the role of the people manager drastically. One is to recognise the conditions and situations people are experiencing, and find a way to ease them through it; the second is to create an environment where employees can be ready for crisis; and the third is to be able to help people navigate public resources amid crisis.
Finally, the speakers listed several things that HR absolutely must do as they reshape the employer-employee relationship:
- Challenge your management team; show them what they're doing well and what they can do better
- Completely rewrite the people management playbook; acknowledge that everything has changed
- Stop doing things just to please the board
- Stop holding onto old and outdated hiring and retention practices