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Well-Being Priorities for 2023: Our Perspective on the Ever-Evolving Well-Being Landscape (Part 2)

We hope you were able to read Part 1 of our Well-Being Priorities for 2023, where we discussed the importance of continuing to focus on employee mental health and aligning well-being to the culture of your organization. This week, we explore our final two priorities: making diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging an organizational norm and evolving and embracing the employee experience. You can also listen to a recording of our recent webinar which features a complete round-up of our 2023 Well-Being Priorities.  

Priority #3: Making Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) an Organizational Norm

A commitment to a more diverse and equitable workplace has been on our trend list for the last few years, yet research we conducted this fall revealed that over half of employees do not believe their company is doing what it takes to create a workplace that promotes DEI&B. The concept of “belonging” was most often called out as “needing improvement.” Moreover, four in 10 employees surveyed report that they would leave their company for a more inclusive one. ​

The extent to which our workplaces promote DEI&B is a significant concern in and of itself, but particularly because of its importance to the largest component of the workforce – millennials. By the year 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce, and this group will occupy the majority of leadership roles over the coming decade. They will be responsible for making important decisions that affect workplace cultures and people’s lives. Even as far back as 2016, 47% of millennials were actively looking for diversity in the workplace when sizing up potential employers.​1

While older generations tend to view diversity through the lenses of race, demographics, equality, and representation, millennials see diversity as a melding of varying experiences, different backgrounds and individual perspectives. They view the ideal workplace as a supportive environment that gives space to varying perspectives on a given issue. ​

So, if organizations want to hire and sustain a millennial workforce, diversity must be a key part of the company culture. ​To be sure, many organizations are doing great work in this space. But those that ignore the urgent need for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging run the risk of losing valuable employees.

What are some ways employers can continue to work on DEI&B ?

  • Build organizational capabilities and learnings at all levels of the organization through virtual classrooms, in-person training, and webinars. Focus skill-building on how to develop inclusive teams and leaders; our recent research found evidence of 50% higher team morale among employees who work for diverse companies.
  • Elevate DEI&B champions. Whether through an Employee Resource Group or other organization, enlist champions to help communicate, influence, and gain support for DEI strategic objectives and goals.​​
  • Continue to explore health equity. We addressed this concept in last year’s trends and it remains Employers need to recognize that an individual’s or a community’s history, environmental, social, and systemic conditions play a huge role in overall well-being and are directly related to how long we live; our quality of life; rates of disease, disability and death; and disease severity.2 Research shows that promoting health equity can benefit employee health and productivity, and reduce health care costs.
  • Consider more inclusive benefits. Many companies will address health equity for a diverse workforce by expanding coverage and benefits for neurodiverse populations and transgender individuals. There is also an increased recognition of the importance of making disability inclusion a key part of DEI&B initiatives.​
  • Support reproductive health. Employers are expanding fertility benefits to cover all types of families; addressing maternal mortality for under-resourced populations; offering doula services coverage for expecting parents; and providing stipends for women who must travel to another state to receive an abortion.

Priority #4: Evolving & Embracing the Employee Experience

Gartner defines employee experience as “the way in which employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with their organization, as well as the context that underlies those interactions.”2 Essentially, it’s all of the individual moments of an employee’s experience that add up to how they feel about an employer’s purpose, brand, and culture.​ And, no surprise, it plays a huge role in employee engagement.

Against the post-pandemic backdrop of low unemployment and a talent shortage, organizations are trying to figure out what the right experience is for employees. As we mentioned earlier, it seems we can’t go back to where we were before or during the pandemic – so what will the right experience be moving forward? Every organization is different and it will take a lot of soul-searching to settle on what the culture is willing to accept to create the right post-pandemic employee experience.

Based on our own research and the work of others in the well-being field, we feel the following will be important components to consider in the coming year:


​It’s safe to say that flexibility is a key characteristic of the modern workforce and has emerged as one of the most important aspects of employee engagement. Research by Envoy found half of employees agree that “having the freedom to split time between the workplace and home, and the flexibility to choose which days to come in, are just as important as traditional benefits like matching 401(k)s and paid time off.”3

And so we can clearly predict that hybrid work will become mainstream. In fact, Gartner recently found that if an organization were to go back to a fully on-site arrangement, it would risk losing up to 39% of its workforce.4

But flexibility is also starting to encompass when and how we work, too. According to McKinsey, “employees today demand flexibility tailored to their specific needs, whether it be work-life balance, physical and emotional health, or caring for family.”5 Blended workdays are also becoming more popular. It’s all part of creating a new human-centric model for the hybrid environment by designing work around what will allow employees to feel productive, valued, and balanced.

Fulfilment, belonging, and satisfaction.

A recent PwC study found that while pay is a top factor for employee retention, there are other, less tangible factors that are important to retention.6​ Three of the top four factors people consider when changing jobs have to do with meaning, belonging, and well-being. Only pay ranked higher than items like: “I find my job fulfilling;” “I can truly be myself;” and “My team cares about my well-being.”

Shifting from a transactional relationship to one of human connection.

​In the “before times,” the employee experience was often centered on “perks” that employers offered to employees to entice them to join the organization and, often, to work longer and harder. Things like unlimited food, nap rooms, ping pong tables, craft beer, free dry cleaning, and other gimmicks. Now that working from home is the norm for many, these kinds of “in-office” perks are no longer relevant.

In addition, employees now place a higher value on how they feel about working at the company and how much the company values them as people. Clearly, this requires a different approach—one that doesn’t correlate engagement and retention with extra benefits, time off (though this can be important), or a fancy office.

​What should employers be focusing on to create a healthy employee experience and enhance engagement?

  • Focus on a “human deal” that makes employees feel cared for financially, physically, and emotionally. ​ After all, it’s the people who make a company successful, and when employees feel like you care for them they’ll be intrinsically motivated to contribute.
  • Establish support “touchpoints” throughout an employee’s career journey. These can include regular training and feedback, career path discussions, relationships with a mentor, the ability to give managers feedback – essentially anything that makes an employee feel seen and heard.
  • ​ Recognize that personal relationships at work are a must, not a nice-to-have. Be inquisitive about people’s lives outside of work and foster connections through clubs, lunch and learns, group coaching, and community service.
  • Continually make the connection between work and how it ties in to the overall goals of the company, and the greater good in society, if applicable.
  • Prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging by funding employee resource groups and encouraging people to become champions.
  • Invest in your leaders to make sure that they’re well-equipped to guide the organization in turbulent times and also tend to their own personal well-being. The same goes for investing in talent. Turnover is expensive, and focusing on a positive employee experience can increase retention.
  • Consider the emotional employee experience. Connect with employees on how they think and feel about being a part of your organization through employee listening (focus groups, pulse surveys).
  • And, finally, it goes without saying ​but investing in employee health and well-being – in all its many forms – is a non-negotiable.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

There is one element that is at the heart of all of our predictions and priorities for 2023 – and that is your people. People are the single most important asset in any organization, so improving health and well-being and creating a positive employee experience – especially in today’s tight labor market –  should be a business imperative. Employers have the potential to play a key role in the creation of a healthy workforce by fostering an inclusive workplace culture, creating community at work, linking work to a larger purpose, and acknowledging and supporting the many dimensions of well-being that are impacted by work. If you have any questions or need help navigating the ever-evolving well-being landscape, visit our website or contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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