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Leading Employers’ People Strategies: Refocus on the People

A diverse community of forward-thinking talent and development leaders representing a range of industries and employers recently gathered together in NYC at an event hosted by Life Meets Work. It was an inspiring full-day exploration of wellbeing and how manager stress impacts a team.

In two parts, I’m sharing a glimpse into what I learned from our executive panel.

Rethinking the employee-employer social contract

Creative agencies have a reputation for burning out their employees. Fast. That’s what makes Golin so remarkable (well, one of the things that makes them so remarkable). Their very name is a play on a mindset that you might associate with agencies: go all in. But in Golin’s case, go all in means to go all in with life, with family, with work. With all the things that make each employee a whole person.

This is why Golin’s Matt West discussed how and why Golin is reopening the employee-employer social contract. With programs like the Life Time program that allows employees to choose where and when they work, and the aptly named “unternship” in which one lucky college grad wins three months to do whatever it is they want to do—outside of the office. They might set up camp on a mountaintop, live with the Amish, experience the cultures of our most creative cities...Whatever they do, Golin is giving them a buffer zone between college and work so that they come to work more prepared to bring their whole selves to the tasks and challenges they face.

Pretty inspiring.

Lifting the taboo to openly talk about stress and burnout

As Allianz SVP of HR, Karolina Karr is in a unique position to get a bird’s-eye view of the world of work across multiple contents. She’s found that, in the U.S., it’s taboo to talk about work stress—at work. Doing so inspires fear that one might be seen as weak or, perhaps, not up to the job.

Yet, she’s seen that this isn’t so in Europe. In response to serious consequences of rampant stress, including a spate of suicides among financial services executives, European employers have made a concerted effort to change the way people think and feel about stress, to remove the taboos around being honest when people are struggling, and so to completely change how burnout is addressed.

As a global employer with European roots, Allianz is in the interesting position of helping spread this cultural shift from its European home offices throughout its global workforce.

Lengthening the employee lifespan through sustainably supportive programs

When KPMG wanted to target employee turnover, particularly among high-potential female talent, Ellen Dember, Executive Director of HR, set out to uncover effective ways to head off burnout.

Ellen quickly found that, while “one & done” programs might help employees feel good during the one-, two-, or even five-day experience, the lift is not sustainable. As soon as these employees return to work, they lose the support they found in that short-lived bubble, and they fall right back to where they were before. Seeing the need for longer-term leadership and support programs, KPMG partnered with Life Meets Work to create a custom 18-month program. Designed especially for women, the program focuses on meaningful ways to manage energy and make mindful work-life choices. Participants take advantage of one-on-one coaching and develop ongoing support through peer learning circles.

Why are such diverse leading employers actively rethinking work, reimagining leadership, and refocusing on wellbeing programs?

Life Meets Work's research has found that a different outlook on work, life, and stress, isn’t just a nice thing for progressive employers to do to support their people. It’s an absolute imperative. Leaders, especially, must be trained to better manage stress. For themselves and their teams. Stressed-out leaders are impacting the bottom line in every industry. Their teams suffer from decreased engagement, job satisfaction, and more.

Toxic stress -- and so, toxic leadership -- is actually more rampant and more costly than many previously thought. In fact, these research findings are part of the inspiration behind the new Refocus Leadership Experience.

We’ll soon be releasing a series of papers detailing our findings and sharing recommendations for employers who want to head off the troubling trends. In the meantime, I hope you’ll sign up to find out when Refocus open enrollment begins.

Are you ready to refocus your people strategy -- and your people?