Drive Organizational Performance by Fostering a Thriving Well-being Culture

October 10, 2018 | Kristen DiOrio and Autumn Krauss | SAP
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A strong positive well-being culture can foster a highly engaged and productive workforce that is happier and more tightly connected in a time of common workplace change and challenge.

Employees are the heart and engine of our organizations. When they feel good, they do good work. “Feeling good” is another way to say having positive well-being. Individual well-being refers to a holistic whole-of-life experience that includes multiple dimensions, such as one’s motivations (sense of purpose), resources (financial well-being, time, energy), mind (psychological and emotional well-being), body (physical well-being), and connections (social well-being). When we think about these facets, it’s important to remember that they are transient (changing regularly as we live our lives), interconnected (impacting each other), and collectively determine our well-being and how good we feel (focusing on one facet in isolation will not result in overall positive well-being). For instance, when we have a sense of purpose (motivations), it gives us energy (resources) to invest in building a strong mind, body, and relationships to take care of ourselves and live life to the fullest. Alternatively, if we are struggling with one facet of our well-being, such as our mind, it often causes us to “pull back” from other investments like our physical health and personal relationships.

While employees have their personal well-being as individuals, organizations have a kind of well-being too. Organizational well-being culture refers to how well a company creates an environment that enables employees to thrive, essentially how well the company embeds well-being as a true cultural value. This starts with integrating employee well-being into the company’s purpose and business strategy, not as a separate “benefit” or “initiative.” It also includes implementing programs, practices, and support mechanisms that take well-being into consideration at the stage of design, not as an afterthought. And it also means that leaders role model the investment in their own personal well-being first, to convey that taking care of oneself is not only permitted but also endorsed as part of what it means to be successful around here.

Collectively, a strong positive organizational well-being culture and positive individual well-being are key enablers of Organizational Health, the company’s ability to adjust to change faster, better, and more efficiently than its competitors. Think Corporate Resilience! This offers a significant competitive advantage, which is often reflected in positive impact on business outcomes including profit, market share, revenue, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction. For instance, employees with positive well-being and organizational support are 91 percent less likely to leave and twice as likely to be engaged in their jobs.

The benefits of investing in both organizational and individual well-being are clear; however, admittedly, it may be difficult to know where to start. Acknowledging that every company is at a different starting place when it comes to their well-being culture is the first step. Second, recognize that like any other culture change initiative, this effort should be viewed as a transformation, not a quick fix or Band-Aid to solve a “rough patch” of high employee stress and low morale. It will require large-scale changes to organizational practices and leadership approaches to achieve significant and sustainable benefits to the business and the employees.

With this mindset, there are some diagnostic and change management activities that can be used to gather some initial intelligence and initiate the change process. First, kick off a comprehensive listening tour to connect with employees through focus groups, interviews, or surveys to understand their well-being needs. Remember that each employee has a unique well-being profile, so a “one size fits all” approach will likely not work. Second, spend some time to understand the current maturity of your well-being culture. How has your company thought about employee well-being so far – as a problem, a benefit, an initiative, a company practice or habit, or a real value and reflected in how things are done across the organization? What would that next step in the well-being culture change process look like?

While you are assessing your company’s current organizational and individual well-being, it is also helpful to take stock of your current programs and offerings. Many companies are already offering copious programs, resources, and tools that are meant to support their employees’ well-being; however, they are often not integrated into a strategy and, instead, appear piecemeal at best and confusing and conflicting at worst. Take some time to inventory and organize your current well-being programming and resources so you can make better use of and communicate more clearly to employees what you already have available.

Finally, to launch this culture transformation, ideally, you want leadership to embrace and model the importance of well-being for the business, which includes investing in their personal well-being and taking well-being into consideration when making decisions and creating the business strategy. In reality, you will not always get that right away. Does this mean that you give up?  Not at all!  While you work on engaging your leadership team, you can assemble a group of passionate champions and informal influencers to lead a grassroots well-being effort across your organization. While it is important to keep the long-term version in mind where well-being is embedded as a cultural value consistently across the enterprise, creating a movement that helps employees thrive, one person at a time, is also culture change.


We are on the brink of a human revolution in the workplace.  The old ways of living and working are no longer working.  This people-centric revolution is where organizational performance and agility is driven by investing in employees and cultivating a culture of positive well-being in the workplace. Imagine a place where employees show up as their best selves and have the motivational, physical, psychological, and social resources to perform at their full potential in work and life. Imagine a work environment where jobs are inherently designed to gain meaning and purpose from one’s work, organizational practices are built in an employee-centric way, leaders recognize the “whole humanness” of their teams and manage and support them accordingly, and the company is collectively aligned to a purpose that has far-reaching implications beyond its four walls. That’s what the human revolution is all about.

The SAP SuccessFactors Well-being at Work initiative brings together a comprehensive understanding of organizational well-being and individual well-being to help organizations operationalize a culture of well-being and purpose to enrich the employee experience and drive peak performance. As part of our Well-being at Work initiative, we invite you to share your Human Revolution story on Thrive Global.  How are you transforming your workplace to foster positive employee well-being? What was your revolutionary moment in your own well-being? We want to hear from you.