Are Chief Wellbeing Officers The Solution To Talent Retention And Performance?

Female CEO or Chief Executive Officer, mature Caucasian woman ru

The pandemic, coupled with the great resignation, have made organisations aware that they need to deepen their understanding of how critical wellbeing measures are to the effectiveness and resilience of the workforce. Organisations are now recognising that wellbeing is essential when it comes to to retaining top talent, reducing absenteeism and improving engagement. 

They also find that improved employee resilience can improve performance in difficult times. I believe that this is why we are now seeing a rise in hiring positions like Chief Wellbeing Officer (CWO) to address wellbeing and performance considerations. 

The first big drive for CWO positions came out of the health care systems to combat high levels of burnout among health care staff. It is now becoming an established position across health care systems of the United States and the UK; the private health care company BUPA has their own CWO position.  

Jonathan Ripp MD, MPH, CWO at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said “I would not be surprised if, 10 years from now, it’s commonplace for most large organisations to have a Chief Wellness Officer or equivalent, taking this challenge on, and doing so in a way that is effective.”

It may be faster than 10 years, as  Deloitte, EY and Kirkland & Ellis LLP are a few of the growing number of leading firms that are appointing CWOs. 

The Benefits of Chief Wellness Officers

CWOs have strong connections to leadership teams, so they can positively impact the organisation in the following ways:

Information Flow To Leadership

They will be able to inform the leadership team about which support services are available and which may require development to address the wellbeing needs of the workforce. Practical assessment of support services will also aid in maximising the utilisation of wellbeing resources. In addition, a CWO can advocate for drawing on resources to meet the wellness needs of the organisation’s workforce. 

They are ensuring clear communication between the workforce and leadership. An adequate information flow between employees, managers and leaders is vital during unprecedented times. Difficult times have shown how important it is for leaders to receive accurate feedback on how their workforce is faring. Employees feel connected to leadership, which can be difficult with remote work.  

A CWO listens to and understands the needs and concerns of the workforce and can provide invaluable information and feedback to leadership about the challenges and stresses they are facing.

A CWO can also form strong partnerships with an organisation’s communications team and help enhance the accuracy and authenticity of the messaging of leaders. This helps to build a meaningful connection between the workforce and its leaders. 

Clear & Accurate Communication

Since wellbeing can be intensely emotional, how messages are worded, and their context can significantly impact how well they are received and how effectively they reassure or frustrate staff. 

A CWO is positioned to keep its ear close to the ground and help moderate the sensitivity, tone, and volume of communications around specific wellbeing topics. This is especially important if an organisation tries to make a significant cultural shift or navigate particular stakeholders.    

One of the most prominent frustrations employees face is taking on and integrating the overwhelming number of communications they receive, which can change daily and become confusing. A dedicated CWO can help contextualise messages, help reduce communication overwhelm, and ensure messaging is inclusive and receptive to a diverse workforce. 

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Swift & Authentic Response

Ensuring employees get immediate support and advice as needed. A CWO is positioned to understand the likely emotional health and wellbeing concerns that may arise in their workforce and ensure that support is actioned fast to prevent escalation. In addition, they help ensure that support services meet the diverse needs of the workforce as well as monitor the utilisation and satisfaction of support services. 

A CWO can work with others to develop a robust and accessible peer support network supported with proper training. Peer support networks can also serve as a communication channel for leadership by sharing their observations. One of the most effective resilience tools for a workforce is having access to a peer support network. 

Breaking Down Silos

Coordinate and amplify wellness resources across an organisation. Many wellness resources are traditionally separated or siloed. Examples include occupational health, HR, employee assistance programs, pay and benefits and other entities. Each performs essential functions, but when action needs to be taken, coordination between various external and internal resources is required to achieve desired outcomes. That is the benefit of having a CWO. 

The CWO being dedicated to wellness can drive existing services, open the door to other services by spurring innovation, and measure and evaluate effectiveness so that evidence-based approaches are implemented to meet wellbeing needs. 

To sum up

Organisations are awakening to the need to deepen their understanding of how critical wellbeing measures are to the retention and resilience of their workforce. By establishing CWO positions, organisations can implement effective wellbeing measures; leaders can communicate authentically and create a positive work environment that supports employee productivity and engagement. Additionally, organisations need to continue to assess and reassess workplace wellbeing to address any potential issues and ensure employees can thrive in the workplace. A CWO position is just right for this, which is why we should see a growing number of organisations establish this position. 

About the author:

Charlène Gisèle is a former Big Law litigator and legal tech manager, who transformed her career to become a High Performance Coach. As a prior London Litigator, Charlène understands the stressors successful professionals can face. Charlène now works with industry-leading businesses and professionals with the mission to maximise their performance sustainably. Her clients include CEOs, partners, financiers as well as law firms, FinTech, PE funds and Universities. Charlène is also an Award winning Keynote speaker and thought leader on the subject of Burnout Prevention and Sustainable Success.



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