Huge ‘war for talent’ emerging as employees vote for wellness, say experts

Leaders and CEOs prioritising workplace wellness is essential to combat the Great Resignation and develop fulfilled employees

executives, wellness

The past two years have revolutionised workplace wellbeing and made it vital for companies to have strategies that cater to their team’s mental health and wellness or have their employees walk out on them in search of job fulfilment and happiness in another organisation.

Workplace wellbeing is being increasingly recognised as a priority across all levels of a company with CEOs and leaders seen as responsible for fostering that through strategies, role modelling and attitude, speakers at the Wellbeing at Work Middle East Summit, held in Dubai from February 21 to 23, agreed.

“There is no doubt that now is the time to put in place a wellbeing strategy if you have not done so already. With the Great Resignation, people are making decisions about the work they want to do and the organisations they want to work with based so much more on feeling fulfilled, having purpose and being happy at work. People are voting with their feet and there is a huge war for talent emerging again,” said Kate Hesk, co-Founder, Cognomie.

“An emerging term is ‘returnism’ which also signifies this. People are needing to go back to the world of work but reluctantly doing so and for many this creates some sense of mental anguish and so now is the time to support people across the organisation, to enable them to gain that fulfilment and connect with the purpose of the organisation, and to perform because they are happy,” she continued.

Within this context, workplace wellness is no longer side-lined or lumped with safety and general health but often given its dedicated team and prioritised across the organisation, with company leaders and CEOs taking the helm.

“Workplace wellness is accepted as shared responsibility across leaders at every level of the organisation. Many are looking to leaders to find the solutions as we emerge and develop through the pandemic and work out what the new future of work is for all our organisations.” said Hesk.

Kate Hesk, Wellbeing, Wellness
Kate Hesk, co-Founder of Cognomie.

“It is therefore essential that leaders put on their own oxygen masks first, meaning look after themselves first to be able to look out for others,” she added.

Proactive and successful CEOs have stepped up to this challenge, embracing their role in fostering a positive workplace culture focused on wellness. In a panel entitled The Role of the CEO in Making Awesome Workplaces, speakers shared their experiences and challenges in fostering this culture.

“Taking an integrated approach is the challenge. Over the last two years, a lot of us have innovated, learned quickly and been agile and resilient. But I think the way I’ve experienced it working well is taking an integrated approach. While it is fine to organise yoga sessions online or to buy devices for everyone so they can monitor certain aspects of their physical wellbeing or to provide mental wellbeing resources, it does not really work unless you have an integrated approach,” said David Jones, CEO and founder, The Talent Enterprise.

“From a personal leadership perspective, I think it is important to be a role model and show that there are some challenges you are facing or demonstrate empathy for the people you are working with. You also need to take and organisational leadership angle as well where you need tools and really objective insightful assessments that people can genuinely buy into with trust. You also need data to benchmark yourself in wellbeing and assess against different dimensions or other organisations or teams,” he continued.

David Jones, wellness
David Jones, CEO and founder, The Talent Enterprise.

CEOs’ health and wellness strategies

The experience of the past two years has highlighted successful CEOs as being the ones who could adapt to the changes the pandemic threw at them.

“A lot of the CEOs I have been talking to are focusing on the health and wellness being piece and not in a superficial way. Pre-pandemic, I probably saw that but what I am seeing now is that people really understood and made that connection between employees being really valued and treated as humans, as opposed to numbers and statistics, and between really good fruitful outputs,” said Craig Austin, director of assessment and development ME and Africa Pareto People.

“There are definitely stronger relations with HR coming out of this and I’ve seen HR step up. I am seeing cultures of health and wellbeing being put into place so it’s not just a fad but a culture. I’m seeing employees going to talk to their CEOs more nowadays, and CEOs being aware that it is part of their responsibility. There is real thinking around health and wellness strategies and CEOs looking more at the authenticity and humbleness aspects,” he explained.

Debbie Kristiansen, wellness
Debbie Kristiansen, general manager, Bahrain IECC, ASM Global.

To Debbie Kristiansen, general manager, Bahrain IECC, ASM Global, “employees are the greatest asset of any organisation,” and so leaders need to make sure they value and take care of them and lead by example.

“For me, I lead with passion and purpose. You need to listen to your team and then action constantly,” she said.

“You have to constantly be aware and adapt to the environment that you are in. You also need to make sure you are present and your team knows that and knows that you will do what needs to be done for that moment in time,” she continued.