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In my previous role as a sales operations manager for a small digital company, I developed quarterly goals for the sales and support teams. The process culminated in presenting the previous quarter’s outcomes and projections for the upcoming quarter to the C-suite for evaluation and approval.
My meetings with the CEO-Founder and other C-suite executives were consistently eye-opening. They served as a stark reminder of their disconnection from the workforce—the heartbeat of the business.
The root cause was evident. The C-suite only engaged with the most senior executives, maintaining an invisible barrier that hindered direct access for team leaders. There was a notable absence of efforts to understand crucial aspects of employee well-being, such as morale, job satisfaction, performance, and absenteeism.
While advocating for more challenging quarterly goals, a significant portion of employees struggled with dissatisfaction, emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. The widening gap between the C-suite and the workforce ultimately led to a profound disconnect and contributed to the business’s demise.
Well-being in the workplace is worsening
A recent survey from Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence has unveiled a striking divergence in the perceptions of well-being between C-level executives and employees in the workplace. It found that 75% of C-suite executives believe their employees’ health has improved, while three in four employees say their health has worsened over the past year.
The survey data from 3,150 C-suite executives, managers, and employees highlight the severity of the decline in employee well-being, indicating that many executives are notably out of touch with their workforce’s well-being and mental health:
- A concerning 60% of employees are contemplating leaving their current jobs in pursuit of positions that better prioritize their well-being
- A substantial percentage of employees report adverse effects on their physical (33%), mental (40%), and social (21%) well-being due to their jobs
- 84% of C-suite executives claim their companies have committed to public well-being, but only 39% of employees think this is true
Accountability for employee well-being starts in the C-suite
Deloitte’s findings shed light on the shortcomings in employers’ efforts to address workplace well-being.
Recognizing and actively supporting the emotional well-being of employees by C-level executives can establish the foundation of a content and thriving work environment. This foundation is further reinforced by fostering a renewed company culture centered around communication, collaboration, trust, and equality.
Several key insights from the data warrant attention from HR leaders:
- Employers are falling short in effectively tackling the underlying causes of employees’ mental health and emotional well-being struggles
- HR and People leaders with the ability and expertise to effect positive change in workplace well-being often lack the empowerment to do so
- A significant number of employers lack formal training or learning-based initiatives, contributing to the current trajectory of worsening mental health in their workplaces
These insights emphasize that organizations must prioritize comprehensive strategies that identify and actively address the root causes of well-being challenges, empowering leaders at all levels to foster a healthier and more supportive work environment.
7 ways HR leaders can help C-suite better support employee well-being
As the vital link between the C-suite and the workforce, HR leaders are uniquely qualified to facilitate a stronger understanding and connection between executives and employees.
Here are seven strategies to help bridge the gap and show employees that emotional well-being is a top priority at your organization.
Leadership development initiatives
HR-led leadership training programs tailored to senior executives can help cultivate “soft skills,” such as heightened emotional intelligence, communication skills, active listening, and empathy.
The development resulting from regular training will strengthen their ability to connect with employees, and deepen their understanding of the organization's culture and diverse perspectives within the workforce.
Establish top-down communication channels
HR leaders can collaborate with C-level executives to develop innovative, clear, and consistent company-wide communication strategies or policies promoting inclusivity and heightened equality.
Host regular company-wide meetings
Monthly or quarterly company meetings create a platform for employees and executives to openly share their feelings, express concerns, offer feedback on company culture, and contribute fresh ideas to enhance workplace well-being.
The valuable insights gained from these sessions can serve as a foundation for informed decision-making and continuous improvements to company culture.
Promote transparency from senior leadership
HR leaders can foster an environment where C-level executives embrace transparency about the company’s status, including communication about significant business decisions, financial stability, and market challenges.
This level of transparency from the top builds trust, enhances morale, and forges a deeper connection among employees with the company’s missions and success.
Implement new avenues for employee feedback
Establish accessible employee feedback mechanisms, including regular one-on-one “check-ins” with team leaders and anonymous employee surveys. Actively responding to this feedback not only demonstrates to employees that their voices are heard and understood, but also reinforces their significant role in shaping the direction of the business.
Utilize a company-wide communication platform or app
Leveraging internal communications platforms (like Slack, for example) has demonstrated effectiveness in fostering increased interaction and engagement across all organizational levels, including the C-suite.
Offer a comprehensive mental health benefit
Recognizing the significant link between workplace well-being and mental and physical health, offering your employees direct access to a comprehensive mental health benefit is imperative.
Spring Health’s clinically validated online assessment screens for over 12 clinical issues, creating personalized plans—that may include therapy, coaching, and/or medication management—to ensure each employee receives the care they need. Support and guidance doesn’t end there—our Care Navigators, who are licensed clinicians, remain available 24/7.
Providing an innovative mental health benefit can also help current and future leaders address uncertainty, anxiety, and distress. Go deeper into the different ways coaching and therapy can build effective leaders at your organization.