Humans of Great Workplaces: Insights on Employee Well-being From Leaders and Employees

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To close up our series on employee well-being, Great Place to Work® turned the spotlight from analyzing survey data on employee well-being to speaking with employees from Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies on their well-being experience in their respective workplaces. This series of conversations, titled #HumansofGreatWorkplaces demonstrates that beyond accolades and awards, when companies build high-trust and embrace a FOR ALL culture, it makes a real impact on employees’ lives.

The interviews clearly showed how employee well-being for a leader meant using the head and the heart to truly understand the situation at-hand and to have empathy. Similarly, a person who is at the receiving end shared how it enabled them to flourish and thrive as an individual in their workplace, thus building up their sense of belonging and purpose at work.

Each leader and employee shared how employee well-being can affect and influence their work environment and their workplace culture and how it shapes the way they relate to their jobs and their colleagues. In our report on Employee Well-being in the New Workplace, employee well-being is regarded as a business imperative.

Here are 4 takeaways from interviews conducted with Micron Technology, Medtronic, Thoughtworks and CrowdStrike in Singapore.

1. Be intentional in taking steps to care for employees’ well-being

All the leaders featured in the HOGW series stressed the importance of this. Mr Gianpaolo Mettifogo, Micron Technology Singapore’s vice president of Assembly and Test shared that a hands-on leadership approach from leaders who walk the ground helps in the understanding of what is needed and in some unprecedented cases, to even go beyond company policies. “When it comes to people, it is not just about guidelines. Every single case is different, and we need to have empathy and understand what is needed.”

In large organizations, leaders are guided by structures and guidelines, but they can be empowered to make decisions for the good of employees that may at times transcend company policies but are still within parameters.

Micron’s employee Ms Rona, a senior engineer, was supported throughout her two pregnancies. The company and her work colleagues stepped up to help her when she needed more flexible workhours to visit the gynae in hospital for additional monitoring due to complications and to reallocate work arrangements during the pregnancy stages. It was also the emotional support and encouragement from her supervisor that allowed her to continue working confidently in her role, while trying to set up a family.

Thoughtworks’ Head of People for Southeast Asia, Ms Bridget Shao suggested that leaders should engage one-on-one actively and when a feedback culture is created in the company, the data should be “analyzed rigorously and acted upon”. The bottom-line, she stressed is that leaders have the task of learning to listen to their employees. “Help them to open up, as Asians, we are not the best with [sharing about our issues], we can help by creating a safe environment for our people to open up,” she said. A multi-pronged approach in creating an environment that supports employees’ well-being can be taken.

2. Employee well-being is crucial and a top management priority

The top question that Mr Sherif El-Nabawi, vice-president, Sales Engineering (Asia Pacific and Japan region) at CrowdStrike faces these days while interviewing job candidates is: “What is your workplace culture like?” The talent market post-pandemic has changed and the best talent that companies hope to hire are aware that if their well-being is not taken care of, they will look elsewhere for a job. This sentiment clearly indicates that if leaders do not start focusing on employee well-being and to cultivate a positive workplace culture, they will face issues in attracting and keeping good talent.

During the Covid pandemic, many companies moved to a virtual working environment. This created a sense of detachment from the office and less physical interaction and presence with colleagues and the team. The need to improve and connect employees during the pandemic and to look into their mental and emotional well-being came under the spotlight. Ms Shao shared that given the amount of time employees spend at work and on work, and the hyper-connectivity of today’s environment, employee mental and emotional health needs a deliberate focus.

This was clearly the case for both Sherrie Tan, regional sales manager, CrowdStrike and Anamika Pillay, Demand Planning Manager (Southeast Asia, Frontier Markets & Korea) at Medtronic. Both started in a new job role within their respective companies during the pandemic and Ms Pillay relocated from the Sydney office to Singapore.

Ms Tan recalls that the zoom calls with colleagues were not just purely work motivated. The connections were meaningful, people were not getting on a zoom because they had to, but they were reaching out and saying: hey you’re new, shall we just have a chat? It was this kind of meaningful connection and the fact that everyone wanted to make the workplace enjoyable, that helped Ms Tan adjust to starting work during the pandemic and when in person work resumed gradually over the last few months.

Ms Pillay shared that her mindset towards employee well-being shifted post-pandemic as she started work in a new country during the lockdown. She recalls the little gestures that Medtronic did by sending food boxes, meal vouchers and birthday surprises directly to her during the lockdown which made her feel welcome despite the lack of physical interaction. It also changed her mind that employee well-being goes beyond tangible workplace benefits such as career aspirations, promotion opportunities to include the mental and emotional health benefits as well.

3. Leaders need to take the lead in self-care

Self-care was a topic spoken about during the interviews and some tips offered by the leaders include daily exercise and hobbies outside of work, establishing trust in the team and learning to delegate, having good family and work relationships, and setting clear boundaries between one’s work and personal life.

4. What makes a great workplace

All the leaders and employees we spoke with agree that a great workplace is one that cares for its people from the start. Regardless of the situation they faced at work or beyond work, each of them were able to clearly identify the help extended and the help received. “Success comes first by taking care of your employees and your teammates,” said Mr El-Nabawi. 

A great workplace is one that develops an authentic understanding of an employee’s career objectives and the personal context and meets the needs they have. “Without that, we will not have continuity in the workplace and will suffer a high attrition rate,” said Mr El-Nabawi. In a similar vein, Ms Pillay shared that she hoped more companies will look into the “softer side of well-being” such as mental and emotional health. “At the end of the day, we are humans, we come with our emotions and our own biases and it will be great if more companies can look at employee well-being holistically.” 

#HumansofGreatWorkplaces are all about personal stories from our community of Great Place to Work-Certified companies. They are leaders and employees who experience employee well-being up close and personal. They know what it means to be a leader who lends a helping hand in time of need or are in the shoes of an employee who has received help and emotional support from a colleague who went beyond the workforce norms. Watch the highlights of their interviews here:

Daphne Lee

Daphne believes in building community-relatable content, telling stories through narratives that add value in today’s workplace and in culture-building. Her idea of a great workplace is one that thrives on openness, support and inclusivity while building trust and working towards a common business growth and purpose. A journalist, she spent 15 years writing for trade publications, lifestyle magazines and broadsheet supplements. Daphne was also active in the Parent Support Group of her daughters’ school, chairing the volunteer-run committee for 3 years. A mum of two teenagers and two adopted dogs, she enjoys riding on her trusty bicycle to discover new sights and sounds in Singapore.

Evelyn Kwek

Evelyn is the Managing Director for Great Place to Work®️ in ASEAN and ANZ. Heading the expansion of Great Place to Work®️ offices in ASEAN, Evelyn is convinced that just as the region is growing exponentially on the economic front, the work of building great workplaces FOR ALL™ must go in tandem with economic growth.

A proud mother of 3, Evelyn takes parenting very seriously – she is strict yet giving, result-focused yet generous. Together with husband Roland, they relish exploring new cultures and beautiful places of the world, usually on leisurely self-drive holidays, before the days of Covid.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.