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Investing in employees: Stephan Scholl's keynote at the Economist Innovation@Work event


Stephan Scholl, CEO of Alight Solutions, spoke on the importance of investing in your employees at the recent Economist Innovation@Work event. He also comments on hot topics employers and HR leaders need to be discussing, such as technology transformation, the importance of engaging talent and the future of wellbeing.

In today’s workforce, what do you think the biggest mistake employers can make when it comes to the success of their business?  

The biggest mistake employers can make is not investing in their people. People are an organization’s greatest asset, yet over half of them are looking to leave their current role. Over half. That’s a staggering number, especially given we’re in a global talent shortage and a pandemic is still at large. This is happening because so many employees simply aren’t getting the support to help them meet their basic needs, like physical and mental health and financial security.

Employees also want to feel a sense of belonging to an organization and be recognized as contributing to the bigger picture. And when those basic needs we just mentioned aren’t being met, that sense of belonging ceases to exist and employee wellbeing takes a huge hit. A lot of employers aren’t recognizing how intertwined all these things are, and it’s impacting their people and their business greatly.

Talk to us a little more about wellbeing. Why and how should employers be focusing on wellbeing within their organization?

When you look at employee data, we’re realizing that there’s a strong connection between belonging, loyalty and overall wellbeing. If an employee’s overall wellbeing can lead to a sense of belonging and loyalty, it’s critical to understand all the components of wellbeing, how they’re connected and the role we as leaders must take on.

Additionally, as leaders, we have a responsibility to invest in employees and set our people up for success when it comes to their physical, mental and financial wellbeing. And that starts by understanding both the barriers and the enablers to keeping employees’ hearts, minds and wallets healthy.

How do employers acknowledge and understand these enablers and barriers?  

Asking the right questions and, more importantly, being able to answer them. This helps leaders approach some of their biggest workforce and business challenges in a different, data-driven way.

For example, we already know the relationship between mental, physical and financial health is intertwined, and when one is off, all other areas are impacted. We also know depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, including chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And by the same token, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.

To make matters more troubling, individuals with depression and anxiety are three times more likely to be in debt, and we know that’s both a cause and effect.

As an employer, if you know all of this is happening and know which questions to ask, it can completely transform your ability to build a more meaningful relationship with your employees. You’re better equipped to build belonging, keep employees longer and help attract future talent. Using data-driven insights to invest in your people is an extremely powerful way to impact their experiences. 

What’s the greatest takeaway you have for employers who are looking to transform their employee experience?

The key to successful business outcomes — strong share prices, growth, new clients and loyal customers — is your employees.

As leaders, we all understand the importance of focusing on improving the experience our customers and clients have. We understand the need to drive shareholder value. But shouldn’t we all agree that investing in our people should be viewed just as critical?

This is where I like to use my example of the “Era of the Employee.” In this era, companies will be judged on the way they treat their people. And this isn’t just coming from me, employees are demanding this from organizations. They always have been, but corporate leaders are feeling it even more. And as we’ve already mentioned, belonging and loyalty is more important than ever.

I’ll revisit the statistic I shared earlier about how over half of the workforce are looking to leave their current role. This is even more likely for Millennial and Gen Z employees, and they account for more than half the workforce. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all explanation for this flight of talent, and with the focus of wellbeing shifting to a sense of belonging, it’s imperative employers recognize and meet not only employees’ basic needs, but foster a sense of belonging as well. The leaders and companies that invest in their employees will have a serious competitive advantage.

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