How To Build A “Whole-Person Workplace”

employee support

We have all spent a lot of time in the last 18 months or so re-imagining the way we work. For the first time in generations, we’ve been able to step outside our working habits and ask critical questions about why we do what we do – and these questions have made planning our post-COVID workplaces a challenge, yes, but also an incredible opportunity. Our guest today is best-selling author, leading workplace expert, and award-winning business school professor, Dr. Scott Behson and his most recent book, The Whole-Person Workplace: Building Better Workplaces through Work-Life, Wellness, and Employee Support, details how, in the wake of the pandemic, employers can become more supportive of their workforce and with them, build a more compassionate and productive workplace. Here, he explains:

  • What makes for a Whole-Person Workplace;
  • How this effort requires a shift in perspective;
  • The benefits of a more supportive and compassionate leadership; and
  • How custom solutions can build a better workplace!


If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


“THE Resource For Workplace Success In The Post-COVID Work World”

  • Dr. Behson was writing another book prior to March 2020 when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, but once it did, it became his inspiration for The Whole-Person Workplace: Building Better Workplaces through Work-Life, Wellness, and Employee Support
  • From March-July 2020, Dr. Behson interviewed about 50 CHROs, CEOs, small business owners, thought leaders, experts, and academics and got their insight on the state of the work world.
    • This included multinational firms to small businesses with just a few employees.
  • While most of the book is applicable for employee support at any time, the book also helped to chronicle the experiences all of these people went through at the height of the pandemic.
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Compassionate Leadership & Employee Support

  • Unfortunately, the discussions being had today about how to improve leadership to better support employees would not be as prominent without the events of the pandemic.
  • Dr. Behson found that some companies who had already built in a sense of flexibility and a high trust management approach were able to adapt to the pandemic work style much easier. 
    • Whether employers were on board with flexibility and a work from home style, the pandemic forced them into adopting it anyway.
  • With the success of hybrid and remote work throughout the pandemic, even the most employers opposed to the concept of working from home became more open to the idea.

What Is The Whole-Person Workplace?

  • The title of the book did not come until later in the writing process, but it came from a quote from one of Dr. Behson’s interviewees, the meaning of which was that people do not solely exist from 9-5, when they are at work. 
  • Employees are whole people who have responsibilities, challenges, and priorities outside of work.
  • Valuing employees as an asset is still transactional - but employees should be  valued as people, not just assets, and employee support is the key to showing them your appreciation.
  • This requires employers to demonstrate their care and concern about their employees’ responsibilities, challenges, and priorities outside of work. 
  • If employees are physically and mentally well outside of work, they’re going to have that carry over to the workplace.
  • This increased employee support will help build a powerful work culture that people will want to be a part of. 

A  Shift In Perspective

  • While there may be many different programs and initiatives that can help drive a stronger employee support system, the key factor is truly a change in mindset from leaders and employers. 
    • This change in mindset really starts and ends with valuing employees as whole people.
  • Once that philosophy is adopted fully, how employee support systems and programs are deployed depends on the unique environment of an organization.
    • Some solutions may work for larger companies, while others may work for smaller ones. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to employee support, except for valuing employees as whole people, of course.

Benefits Of A Whole-Person Workplace

  • More so than any other benefit, you create the culture of employee support that people want to be a part of.
    • This culture should attract, retain, and engage your talent, which will in turn have even more branch off benefits to your day to day operations.
  • A great example is parental leave. A more understanding leader, one that cultivates a culture of employee support and builds a Whole-Person Workplace, will be less likely to lose employees when an employee has a baby (typically one of the most prominent times for turnover).  
    • This applies to the employee who will be out on parental leave, but also the rest of their work team who will need support helping to cover for that person’s responsibilities.
  • The evidence of this turnover is in the news currently with the “Great Resignation” or “Resignation Nation.”
    • Employees are in search of employers that take employee support seriously and understand that employees are more than just workers.

The Cost of Support

  • While things like paid leave obviously cost money, Dr. Behson believes that if you value your employees as people, those costs will be paid off in the long run.
    • Replacing employees is not cheap either, and retention of employees will help to save money.
  • This being said, because of the upfront costs that are associated with sticking to a culture of employee support, typically large corporations are more well suited to handle paid leave and other provisions.
    • Smaller businesses that have less employees may struggle some with these kinds of policies, but there are other solutions.
      • A good example of alternative solutions is employers giving employees their schedules further in advance. This is a version of employee support that does not have any hard costs and still shows respect to employees by allowing them to plan ahead of outside work events.
  • These solutions can and should be tailored to our unique organizations where there does not necessarily need to be a massive investment, but instead small, simple adjustments in ways of thinking can make this culture of employee support a reality.

Turning A Business Into A Whole-Person Workplace

  • Similar to any instance in which a new set of values is adopted, it takes specific decision-making over a period of time to create that culture of employee support.
    • This includes the types of policies and programs you implement as well as how you overcome potential barriers to creating your Whole-Person Workplace. 
  • It will take time for people to trust that the values being implemented are more than surface level promises - the action behind those values speaks much louder than just talking about them. 
    • Consistently providing employee support is key, the repeated mention of values and actions behind those values is what will cement the workplace culture.
  • Weaving pay and benefits into the equation will also go a long way in creating a culture of employee support. 
    • Offering the same benefits to people of different salaries shows that the organization cares about employees as people all the same, not just on their production at work.

Who Should Be Involved?

  • Ideally everyone is involved in creating a high-trust work culture.The entirety of the workplace has to work together to build that high level of trust and support inorder for it to become a staple of the organization. 
  • HR Professionals are a great place to start when building a culture of employee support.
  • When top leadership becomes involved and supports this culture, the implementation of values is accelerated.
  • Buy-in from everyone is essential to creating a successful work culture, especially one that values each and every person as just that, a person, not just an asset.
    • Differences in life situations by age or family situation or any other factor should be taken into account and should allow for every employee to feel supported and cared about uniquely.

Finding Custom Solutions For Your Organization

  • Once you decide to take on the values of employee support, how you implement it is up to you and your organization’s culture and the priorities of your people.
  • Leadership will need to understand what concerns employees have, what their stressors are, and what might be holding them back from thriving at work and at home.
    • Listening to employees is of paramount importance when it comes to understanding employees.
  • Fundamentally, organizations should have the pulse of their workforce at the top of mind.
  • It is also important to note that diversity is a key contributor to understanding that pulse of the workforce. The more diverse the group of people is, the more effective implemented employee support systems will be.

Employee Support In The Future

  • While it may be easy for organizations to implement a culture of employee support just to get through the pandemic and the aftermath, the future or your organization will be better off if this culture is maintained.
  • The marketplace of employees moving forward will look for workplaces will more support, better culture, and more flexibility moving forward.

Dr. Behson & His Work

Scott Behson Background

Contact

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About the Author Jacqueline Gregory

As a creative, persuasive communications professional with extensive experience guiding projects from concept through completion Jacqui has produced custom communications for some of the world's best known brands. Producing ProjectHR has been one of her favorite ways to engage and delight HR and Labor Relations professionals!

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