How to Put Your Employees’ Well-Being First

UPDATED: January 31, 2024
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2021
How to Put Your Employees’ Well-Being First

Now that the pandemic is slowly ending, most employees aren’t ready to return to the office full-time. Seventy-three percent of people want to continue working remotely, according to research from Edelman Data x Intelligence. Some people want to stay home the entire week. Others are negotiating a hybrid schedule with a few days in-office. Either way, both groups are re-examining how work affects their well-being.

Employees can’t do it alone. Companies should acknowledge that in a post-pandemic world, CEOs, executives and managers can build systems to improve workers’ well-being.

In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, SUCCESS People Editor Tristan Ahumada talks to Jim Harter about what makes workers thrive. Good managers invest in five areas of a person’s life: their expectations, their personal development, their strengths, their opinions and their purpose. Harter discusses each area and more in Gallup’s new book, Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams.

Harter is the chief scientist for workplace management and well-being at Gallup. Here’s what he recommends to boost your team’s well-being. 

1. Meet your employees’ basic expectations.

At a minimum, people expect two things from employers:

  1. A clearly defined role so they know what to do and which goals to meet
  2. The proper tools to do their work, whether that’s project management software, high-speed internet or a sturdy office chair

Supplying the right tools for your team is the easy part. Most managers struggle with the never-ending process of setting clear expectations at work.

“Only about half of people, globally, know what’s expected of them at work,” Harter says. “So there’s a big gap in a lot of organizations with just getting that right and making sure the translation happens appropriately. When people know what they’re supposed to do and why, and actually have some involvement in setting their own goals, you’ve gone a long way.” 

2. Embrace every team member’s strengths.

At work, everyone has a talent. It could be planning, organizing, public speaking, or a variety of workplace strengths. No matter what a person excels at, it’s important to view that ability as part of what makes them special. Because more than anything, employees want to use their intrinsic gifts to make a difference.

“Everybody has to do things they don’t love to do in their work,” Harter says. “But you need an abundance of people doing what they do best…. As your organization grows over time, you’re going to find that people can continually do more of what they do best and hand off things they don’t do best to other people.”

Do you know your team’s strengths? If not, read StrengthsFinder 2.0, which includes insights from Gallup, author Tom Rath, and Don Clifton, the father of strengths psychology. Share the book with your team and encourage them to take the assessment. Whatever their strengths are, leverage them to meet company goals and enhance your team’s well-being.

3. Help your people develop their strengths.

Once you know your team’s strengths, help them develop those skills. To start, Harter recommends having a meaningful conversation with each team member every week. During those talks, learn what you can about the projects they’re working on, how they use their strengths and what’s happening in their personal lives. 

After a while, you’ll slowly build a rapport with employees. They will trust you enough to accept feedback, especially when their work isn’t meeting your expectations. And of course, you have the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. 

4. Listen to your team.

You can improve your team’s well-being by giving them a sense of autonomy and influence. That sounds like a major undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply listening to employees goes a long way in making them feel respected and understood. 

“People naturally get this wrong because they think they should delegate,” Harter says. “But you can get it right just by sitting down with people and getting their perspective. That’s not very hard.”

5. Show people how their work reinforces the company’s mission.

Does your team know the true impact of their work? Or do they simply see a list of tasks and daily routines? If so, help team members connect their work to the company’s purpose. A good manager can explain how someone’s work bolsters the team, its department and ultimately, the entire company.

“It starts with an organization having a really clear mission or purpose you can remember off the top of your head,” Harter says. “Gallup’s [mission] is to provide analytics and advice that improves the world, one person or one organization at a time. I can attach all my work to that.”

Brilliant Thoughts with Tristan Ahumada is no longer releasing new episodes on the SUCCESS Podcast Network, but you can still listen to the full conversation below.

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Lydia Sweatt

Lydia Sweatt is a freelance writer, bookworm, and bass guitar enthusiast. When she goes outside, a bicycle goes with her.