Unfortunately, this question very often ends up getting confused with another similar - but very different - query: ‘what does it mean to be a good business?’.
The problem is that there are two very different answers to these seemingly similar questions. Being a good business encompasses a whole range of things, from taking care of customers to giving back to local communities and so on. But what does it mean to be a ‘good employer’? The answer to that question is actually a lot more straightforward…
...it’s just about putting your people first.
The rise of people centricity
Putting employees first is a massive topic of interest right now in the pandemic and post-pandemic landscape. In fact, one recent research report even suggests that how businesses treat their employees can massively influence decision making processes, with 90% of customers saying it’s important that businesses treat their employees well.
We've all heard about a certain online retailer and how it has been treating its delivery drivers, introducing strict toilet breaks and cameras that track their every move; essentially treating employees as little more than machines. Some employers unfortunately see their workers as robots with strict outputs. And this isn’t something that today’s customers are particularly happy about. Obviously, neither are the workers.
But we can’t blame the pandemic for this. At least not 100%. This is something that’s been emerging for a while. Right now, how businesses treat their employees has been thrust into the limelight because of the global health crisis, but the Harvard Business Review stated that ‘customers care how you treat your employees’ way back in 2018.
So while this idea has been around for years, it is, perhaps, fair to say that how employers treat their staff is having a much bigger impact on wellbeing given the unusual environment we’re in today. Many employees are exhausted, working harder than ever before, and are reaching burn-out. This is heightening the impact that employers can have on their employees’ overall wellbeing; they can either make it, or break it.
And so it seems reasonable to say that the role of a good employer is to recognise employees as what they are: real people, with real emotions and real struggles and real needs. The businesses that realise this are the ones that are more likely to thrive.
Becoming a good employer, not just a good business
Back in 1900, George Cadbury of chocolate fame built - out of his own pocket - Bournville Village; a housing community not only for his factory workers, but for locals struggling financially, too. The 313 houses featured large gardens, with easy access to parks and recreation areas so that residents could walk, swim, play sports, and stay happy and healthy. Of course, the world has changed a lot since then, but Mr. Cadbury remains one of the best examples of what it means to be a good employer.
While the pandemic has been devastating for everyone, there is a ‘silver lining’, if we can call it such. It’s been a really big wake up call for a lot of employers who had become firmly lodged in the habit of putting profits over people. 1 in 5 employees have thought about quitting their jobs during lockdown due to burnout, and experts are predicting a ‘turnover tsunami’ once the landscape returns to normal as employees search for new opportunities with employers that will support them and care for them.
There’s never been a better time to understand the role of a good employer and - even more importantly - to make necessary changes to ensure you’re looking after your vital human resources when they need you most. For some, this may involve simply working to adapt an existing employee support strategy; for others, bigger changes may be involved. But whatever stage you’re at, there are a few simple areas to focus on that can have a big effect on employee wellbeing, happiness, and satisfaction:
- Benefits: If you don’t already have an employee benefits programme in place, consider introducing one for your staff. This could be as simple as offering discount vouchers for local stores and services to demonstrate appreciation.
- Pension contributions: The global health crisis has had a big impact on many people’s financial situation, and some are worrying about their ability to save for the future. Employees can feel more in control of their future by being able to see what they are on track for when they retire and increasing pension contributions if necessary.
- Mental health support: The COVID-19 outbreak has been very difficult for everyone, and it’s been having a huge effect on mental health. Consider offering access to mental health support and advice services for workers.
- Financial wellness services: If your employees are feeling worried or anxious about their finances, giving them access to a service such as MyEva is a quick and easy way to ensure your workforce has access to expert support and tailored financial guidance.
Investing in employees and treating them as humans rather than simply cogs in a machine is likely to pay off for employers, helping to develop a team of happier employees. Happy workers are said to be 13% more productive, and less likely to seek work elsewhere, so while there may be initial outgoings associated with developing an employee support programme, the return on investment stands to be significant.