How line managers are key to getting the benefits message across – and retaining talent
It’s amazing how the role of the ‘line manager’ has evolved and adapted over the years, especially in line with technology and rapid social progress.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it survived a further step-change as the UK and wider world adapted to a whole host of never-seen-before challenges.
Homeworking and hybrid working have since become established norms. And, having had time during lockdown to consider what they really want from their careers, many employees have become disengaged with their company’s objectives and values.
Retention is now key
A recent survey by Sodexo Engage showed that 32% of UK workers were thinking of resigning this year. But few businesses can afford such turnover levels.
Research has traditionally demonstrated that, as a broad rule of thumb, it can cost a year’s salary to replace an employee, taking into account factors such as advertising, recruitment fees, training and a drop-off in productivity as a newcomer finds their feet.
So, a new emphasis on retention to combat this ‘Great Resignation’ is demanding different skill sets from those in middle-management positions.
It is no longer enough for line managers simply to be a reactive middleperson who passes down orders and ensures these are followed.
They need to be proactive motivators who make their team members feel wanted and induce optimum performance from them, while also supporting their mental and physical wellbeing – all within a more fractured working environment than ever before.
The engagement challenge
Even if employees don’t leave, those with low engagement levels won’t perform to their maximum. Indeed, our last Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study found that the UK economy loses 38 days per employee per year through low productivity.
Furthermore, in the era of hybrid working this engagement challenge assumes a whole new layer of complexity.
Do, for example, employees working from home have the right hardware and software to facilitate the most effective communication? Is enough being done to show appreciation for their efforts or to ask for their feedback, or to help with promoting health and wellbeing?
Management style has long been highlighted by research as a major cause of stress in the workplace, and the consequences of poor management can be all the more damaging and sinister if they are inconspicuous and allowed to fester.
Emotional intelligence is key
The key quality needed by the modern line manager is ‘emotional intelligence’, which refers to the ability to recognise, control and evaluate the emotions of others and to use this awareness to motivate them.
Even if managers appear lacking in this, a little training can go a long way. This is particularly the case with supporting health and wellbeing, where communicating some basic information and options can have a spectacular effect in triggering behavioural change.
Vitality’s own research has shown that employees who are more engaged with health and wellbeing experience 28% fewer sickness episodes and are 150% more likely to report job satisfaction.
One of the most powerful ways of instigating behavioural change is by offering incentives and rewards. And they need to be just as effective for those working from home as they are for office-based staff. And they lead to behavioural change that is sustainable.
For example, we’ve been working with global healthcare firm Novo Nordisk for over 10 years. On average, over 50% of its employees were engaging with the Vitality Programme, a structured behaviour change programme linked to incentives, between 2015 and 2020.
But, more importantly, the proportion of employees achieving Silver, Gold or Platinum status through the programme almost doubled to 45% of all employees, indicating sustained engagement over time which is critical to achieve health improvements.
This compared with an average industry engagement for digital health programmes of less than 10%.
All this can have huge implications for the bottom line. Novo Nordisk employees have benefited from 11 additional days of productive time per year due to positive changes to their lifestyle – creating a total saving of £1,300 per employee per year.
So, line managers don’t have to be psychologists or experts in behavioural economics to instigate behavioural change. They just need the empathy to communicate the potential benefits of structured wellbeing programmes that are proven to encourage positive lifestyle choices.
In partnership with Vitality
Vitality Health is award-winning health insurance that helps your clients live a healthier lifestyle every day