What do HR professionals actually feel when it comes to their company’s approach to wellbeing?

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Knowing what employees truly feel about a company and its strategies can be a challenge.

The current cost of living crisis and the importance of retaining talent means supporting employees has become critical, and many companies have invested in strategies to better support their employees. But are the strategies effective? And how best do you understand employees’ real opinions and feelings about them? 

Nathalie Hyatt, Strategy Principal for Health Solutions UK at Aon, explained: “Employers tend to use traditional surveys when carrying out employee listening exercises and employees themselves answer these types of surveys using their conscious mind, thinking about the question asked and often giving a considered response. But these responses may be influenced by a number of mindsets – from being strategic in their answers, secretive or even disinterested or disruptive”.

To show this in action, Aon conducted a survey entitled HR Future Focus, to explore the difference between what HR professionals say and what they actually feel by using its Neurotech® listening tool, Reflection® which measures both conscious and nonconscious responses to a series of statements. In this instance, the survey asked HR professionals what they felt about their organisational people strategies.

How it works

The listening tool collects two types of insight: a traditional score – what people are prepared to say (consciously moderated answers) and a neuroscientific score – how people really feel (nonconscious, intuitive, or unfiltered views).

The difference between the two scores reveals a cognitive dissonance gap. This gap is the difference between what people say and what people really think and feel. When both scores are close together, it suggests low cognitive dissonance, where people are expressing their authentic feelings. But, when there is a clear gap between the scores, it suggests they might be holding something back.

Generally, when a traditional score or neuroscientific score is higher than 55% it means respondents have given the affirmation a positive score. Scores between 45% to 55% mean respondents feel neutral and anything lower than 45% means they feel negatively towards the affirmation.

Here are some examples from Aon’s HR Future Focus Survey and what they mean:

“Our employees are resilient to workplace stress”

Traditional score 52%, Neuroscience score 52%, Difference 0%

The absence of any cognitive dissonance suggests this is an authentic score, and the fact that the score is neutral at 52% suggests there may be a lack of certainty around this subject by the HR respondents. Do they really know how resilient their employees are? Do the respondents understand what resilience means or what the workplace stressors are? Does the organisation need to focus on this area?

“People managers have wellbeing tools to help employees”

Traditional score 63%, Neuroscience score 37%, Difference 26%.

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The traditional score is higher than the neuroscientific score suggesting that HR are overstating their feelings in answering this question, when in reality, the neuroscientific score suggests they perhaps don’t feel managers have the wellbeing tools they need to help employees. The response provokes curiosity as to why the cognitive dissonance arises. It could be that tools are available but not accessed by managers, that managers lack confidence in using the tools, or if wellbeing is not embedded into company culture, this could prevent managers from actively using the tools available. Whichever it is, the response casts doubt on whether the current initiative is working effectively.

We do enough to support employee financial wellness”

Traditional score: 59%, Neuroscience score: 20%, Difference: 39%

With the neuroscientific score significantly lower than the traditional score, this suggests respondents know deep down that more could be done to support employee financial wellness. It may be that respondents are unsure of what more can be done in terms of support or unclear about where their support does and should end. With an element of financial wellness linked to compensation and pensions and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, it may be that respondents feel some areas are outside of their control or influence.

Letitia Rowlin, Principal Wellbeing Consultant at Aon said:

“The survey responses invite organisations to be curious and prompt further inquiry as to the reasons for the cognitive dissonance amongst HR respondents, and the reality is there could be several explanations.”

Rowlin continued, “Wellbeing is subjective, so employee listening is important in creating a successful strategy. There may also be a disconnect between the Leadership Team’s perception of wellbeing challenges and what employees on the ground really think and feel. This goes back to data and to understanding what the real underlying issues are for employees”.

Nathalie Hyatt summed up, “Using neuroscience technology to listen to employees is a key way for employers to have clarity and confidence to make more informed decisions and create meaningful action plans to deliver better employee experiences”.

To access the full results, you can download Aon’s HR Future Focus Survey here.

And to find out more about the Neurotech® employee listening tool that powered the survey, we call Reflection®, you can contact Aon at [email protected], call +44 344 573 0033 or visit www.aon.com/reflection.

About the author:

Letitia Rowlin ([email protected]) is Principal Wellbeing Consultant at Aon, helping organisations approach wellbeing and people risk strategically to create healthy sustainable workplaces. A Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Executive Coach and former practising solicitor, she has a specific interest in occupational and organisational stress management and mental health.

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