When it comes to your organisation’s Employee Wellbeing Strategy there is one important thing to remember; The very people who are most in need of support and who would benefit the most from improved wellbeing are often the most disengaged and least likely to communicate any issues that need to be resolved.
There are many different reasons why an employee might feel the need to raise a concern or ask for some kind of help or support. Some typical examples might include problems with their line manager, problems in their personal life, ways which they think the work place could be improved, things which they think might help them do their job better, feeling unsupported, overworked or that they have been treated unfairly.
You can find out more in my free ebook ‘A Practical Guide to Employee Wellbeing’. If any of these points resonate with you, download the book where you’ll find out what steps you can take.
Here are 10 reasons why people may not raise concerns or ask for the help they need:
1. They don’t think it will make any difference - either they don’t feel that they are listened to or they have seen or heard about others speaking up and not getting the support they needed.
2. They don’t see what’s in it for them - in their mind they don’t make the link between getting support and actually being better off as a result.
3. They think they will be seen as a trouble maker – company culture can be a cause of this mind-set.
4. They think they will be seen as an attention seeker – again company culture can play a big part here.
5. They are worried that they will get someone else into trouble and they feel bad about that – as a general rule people don’t want other people to suffer as a result of their actions, even if it means suffering themselves instead.
6. They are worried that they will get someone else into trouble and that it will cause other problems for them – sometimes it may seem easier to live with a problem than to potentially trigger something which may have repercussions.
7. They are shy or nervous and would like to say something, but don’t have the confidence.
8. They don’t feel like they deserve help – they don’t want to be a bother to other people and add to their workload.
9. There is so much wrong that they decide it is best to pick their battles or they would continually be ‘speaking up’.
10. There are too many unknowns involved – if there is not a clear procedure in place for concerns or requests for support being dealt with, this can prevent people coming forward.
How can I remove these barriers?
You can’t force people to come forward, but you can acknowledge that silence doesn’t mean everything is going brilliantly. If you acknowledge this then you are on the right path to creating the conditions for people to feel safe to speak up.
If you don’t acknowledge this then you are in danger of trundling along with problems bubbling under the surface. The problems will only present themselves when they become so serious that an employee leaves the company, goes off sick or makes a serious mistake or misjudgement because they are preoccupied, exhausted or unmotivated.
If you invest the time and energy in creating the right conditions for people to speak up, things can easily be dealt with before they escalate. They are quicker and easier to resolve and don’t have a wider negative impact.
Think of a small problem as a single rotten strawberry hidden at the bottom of the punnet. If it’s left there, then the mould begins to spread to the fruit around it. Always assume there is room for improvement even if you don’t have any obvious reason to think this.
Here are 5 ways you can create the right conditions for employees to raise concerns or access support:
1. Make confidentiality a priority – even if it means having to create a budget, make sure employees have a means of reporting a problem or a concern, in complete confidentiality. That might be via a telephone line, special software, a suggestions box, or a nominated person who is properly trained to deal with such matters.
2. Always follow up with action or proper support as necessary – the worst possible thing that can happen is if a sensitive issue is mishandled or not acted upon at all. The employee concerned will be in a worse situation than if they had never come forward and there may be knock-on effects if other employees become aware of what has happened.
3. Make the support visible and accessible – even if the mechanisms are in place and robust, employees are unlikely to come forward with a problem if they don’t know that measures are in place to help them.
4. Proper training for managers (for example listening skills, how to be approachable, how to handle things efficiently and sensitively)
5. Get the message across to employees that there will be no repercussions (consider this in terms of both employer branding and having the right processes in place).
Demonstrating your commitment is the most important way to make your employee wellbeing scheme a success. Always act upon feedback. Always support people when they ask for it. Some people may ‘whisper’. They may try to get their message across softly or politely. They may broach the subject indirectly, drop hints make suggestions. They are likely to try this once or twice, and if they don’t get any response, they don’t follow up. Virtually nobody will ‘shout’ to get their concerns heard. The majority of people are likely to take action (in other words leave the company, go off sick, pick a fight or spread negative vibes) or suffer in silence which leads to even bigger and more difficult to solve problems later down the line.
Saffron Grant specialises in improving business performance by improving employee wellbeing. If it is the right time, now, for your organisation to put a watertight Employee Wellbeing Strategy in place, email saffron@changegives to arrange a free 30 minute call. Or for an instant Employee Wellbeing Strategy quote click here.
Saffron is the author of 'A Practical Guide to Employee Wellbeing - How to create your strategy' which can be accessed for free here.