What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) and critical success factors in your organization? Most commonly, metrics are identified and goals are established in areas such as the financial, procedural, structural, or technical aspects of an organization. KPIs are often identified as improved earnings, a balanced budget, achieved performance goals, or increased market share. Resources are spent creating strategic plans, establishing policies, managing performance, and developing budgets to meet financial goals and then monitoring progress toward achieving them.
The thing missing from all these performance indicators is the key component and foundational determinant of every organization’s ability to achieve sustainable success—its people. More specifically, the mental health and well-being of the organization’s employees.
The topic of mental health is prevalent in the media, but what is mental health? According to MentalHealth.gov it “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act,” and the effects are not limited to our life outside of work. It is impossible to keep what happens outside the organization from affecting our professional life and vice versa. The American Psychological Association says, “Psychological evidence suggests employee mental health is a critical component for organization functioning and success.” Every person brings their whole self to work.
As leaders and managers, we look to our employees for innovation and creativity. We need employees to be focused, committed, and productive. We want them to be motivated, engaged, and work together as a team. Ideally, we want them to feel satisfied with their job and the company. According to Psychology Today, “Mental health and productivity are closely linked. Poor mental health, manifesting most often as depression, anxiety, or burnout can severely decrease motivation and production while increasing stress, leading to it can have serious consequences for a person and their relationships.” Since your employees’ mental health and well-being affects their creativity, productivity, decision-making, relationships, engagement level, and overall satisfaction with life, you can increase the probability of improving these by investing resources in the mental health and well-being of your employees.
Consider the direct and indirect costs of turnover in your organization. Results from a recent study by the Workforce Institute at UKG found that “new data suggests that for almost 70% of people, their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or doctor.” In a study by Limeade, two of the top reasons employees left their jobs in 2021 were burnout (40%) and their well-being not being supported by their company (16 %).
The direct and indirect costs attributable to mental health and well-being for an organization are far reaching. They impact not only culture, morale, and engagement, but also productivity, turnover, health plan expenses, and ultimately ROI. According to a study by the World Health Organization, there is approximately a $1 trillion loss in productivity attributed to depression and anxiety resulting in the annual loss of 12 billion working days. This is far too high to ignore.
Employees are an organization’s most valuable asset. Famed early business thought leader Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If it is true that culture eats strategy for breakfast (or even just a snack) we should be investing more in our culture, which really means investing more in our employees’ well-being.
Employees need to feel heard, seen, and valued. They need timely communication and to feel a sense of purpose, belonging, and that they as a human being and their contribution matters. What programs are offered, supported, and encouraged that focus on an employee’s mental health and well-being in your organization?
An implied expectation that an employee should be working at full capacity during work hours totally disregards the state of the employee’s mental health and the role their job and manager plays in it. What would your employees say are the focus and priorities in your organization? Would their mental health and well-being make the list? The practicalities of day to day business need to mirror and support the messages you’re intending to send and the culture you want to create or maintain. If you want to have a culture that encourages a work-life balance, you must also praise and promote employees who set healthy boundaries around work. Take an active role in promoting mental health care and lead by example by taking care of your own first. Leaders should help reduce the stigma and normalize things like therapy, meditation, exercise, and “mental health days” by talking about them openly to employees at all levels.
What can you do to equip your employees and organization with the mindset, tools, and environment to thrive?
- Provide your employees with easy access to mental health care. This can mean availability via the company health plan of a wide range of network providers and low copays. It can also mean using an independent vendor who provides low cost, online therapy services.
- Offer a behavioral health or employee assistance program. More importantly, ensure it is visible to employees and they know how to use it. Consistently promote and encourage utilization of the program whenever the circumstance or situation calls for it.
- Create a sense of belonging by recognizing the unique efforts and accomplishments of employees. One way this can be achieved is by implementing specific recognition programs or by instituting a practice acknowledging appreciation in meetings or company newsletters. Another way is to encourage people to speak freely by seeking divergent opinions and ideas and promoting an open, honest, candid discussion of them.
- Train leaders and managers to assist employees. Provide awareness training and education on how to identify employees who may need help, the assistance and resources available, and how to communicate with them.
- Go a step further and provide and equip employees with the tools to help themselves build and strengthen mental resilience. Offer a library of mental well-being resource materials that employees can readily access, recurring lunch and learns where employees can listen to someone speak on mental well-being, or include mental health and well-being topics in workshops, seminars, company meetings.
Continual advances in technology, improved access to information, and increasing utilization of AI allow many operations and functions to be easily duplicated or commoditized. This makes it more challenging to gain a competitive advantage. Achieving sustainable success is ultimately determined by the same underlying foundation of every organization which can’t be duplicated or commoditized. Our greatest corporate asset is people, specifically our employees. Whether we are corporate leaders or department managers, our people are the key to company success. It’s time to consider a dynamic shift in our strategy and our traditional KPIs. It’s time to take action and make an investment in our employee’s mental health and well- being.
Written by Julia A. Nicholson.
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