VIDEOCAST: Should Wellbeing Be Measured?

How much influence can HR and leaders have on employee wellbeing? Can wellbeing simply be measured with predefined KPIs?

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At the Wellbeing Summit, Joanna Malinowska-Parzydło talked about the rapid evolution of the approach to wellbeing in Poland. The respected coach, MBA lecturer and longtime communications and HR director at media corporations emphasises how much of an impact the pandemic had in this regard. “Managers felt helpless for the first time as they couldn’t use ‘extrinsic incentives’ such as no dress-code or office presence,” explains Malinowska-Parzydło. “It turned out that they were incapable of managing relationships with their people and ensuring that they were optimally engaged without being able to use benefits such as ‘no-suit day’”.  

Shorter Friday and managerial shortcomings 

This was the moment when employee wellbeing slowly ceased to be viewed solely through the lens of flexible working hours, ending work early on Fridays, a swimming pool card, or a meeting with a mentor. Eventually, wellbeing began to be looked at from a much broader perspective, i.e. the full range of employee needs.  

The deficit in social competencies on the part of managers, communicating the issue by leaders and taking it up by HR departments – these were the driving forces behind the revolution in the approach to wellbeing and its inclusion in the development strategy of many companies. External providers of various solutions came to the rescue, and the topic of employee wellbeing began to appear more and more often at business conferences. It has simply become trendy.  

A catchy phrase versus Excel 

But has it ceased to be just an empty slogan? Is it time to set wellbeing KPIs? “As a business practitioner, I think it is difficult to manage anything if you don’t have a reference point, a goal, and some kind of metric,” notes Joanna Malinowska-Parzydło. “If something is important in business, it is subject to measurement, evaluation and reward. I believe in well-defined goals. No matter what methodology we use, it is important that the goals are realistic, time-bound and assigned to a specific person responsible for implementing it. The goal must also have KPIs by which we will know that it has been met”. 

While indicators of employee wellbeing can be very subjective and difficult to measure, the very atmosphere within a company and the wellbeing of its employees can already translate into objective numbers. One example of an indicator is employee retention. If someone feels good about a job, then they usually don’t quit it. The thing that is easier to evaluate than subjective feelings is observable behaviour. In addition to retention, it happened to be, for example, the incidence rate of COVID-19 in particular teams. 

Who is responsible for all this?  

Should wellbeing be the domain of HR departments? “HR will not ensure employee wellbeing, but it can create certain tools that team leaders can use,” says Malinowska-Parzydło. “However, it is also worth focusing on the leaders for a while as now they are often expected to do things that no one taught them before. Therefore, it is necessary to create a safe space for them to work on something for the first time.  

Joanna Malinowska-Parzydło

Experienced business practitioner. Once on the other side of corporate reality, she helps manage corporate communications, trust and resilience. She designs personal brands of leaders who seek to build trust and have a positive business impact. She helps build an ESG culture around a proprietary sustainable leadership model. Long-time director of communications and People&Culture at media corporations including the Rzeczpospolita daily and TVN Group. She introduced the topics of reputation and strong personal brand to the Polish reality. She runs the “Jesteś Marką” (You Are the Brand) blog.