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Employee wellbeing and SMCR, are they compatible?

I know that quite a few of our employees have been struggling with their wellbeing during the pandemic, I am worried that SMCR will only make matters worse.

The first question to consider is why and how SMCR might have an adverse effect on your employees’ wellbeing. This partly comes down to the way that your firm is implementing SMCR.

We see firms taking quite different approaches, some are adopting a more “top down” style where there is a sense that improved individual accountability needs to be imposed on employees through greater control and performance measurement.

Other firms are pushing an agenda of bottom-up culture change, where more time is spent engaging employees around the “why” and “how” of SMCR in order to drive adoption of the regulation and a broad change in behaviour.

The risk with the first approach is that it can create an atmosphere of mistrust and can lead to psychological gap between employees and the firm. This is probably the last thing that you want in the current environment where staff are already physically distanced by working from home.

The challenge with the second method is that it can feel too loose, too slow and too hard to measure. The reality is that your firm will need to find the right balance between these two approaches, one that suits your specific operational context.

Three principles for employee wellbeing

Whatever your chosen route through SMCR, there are some wellbeing principles that you should get right anyway:

  • Set the tone from the top – senior managers have a critical role to play in providing an environment where your employees can thrive. In practice, this means excellent communication with staff where human contact is a top priority – think about making a call rather than sending an email. It also means clear and consistent messages and a real sense of an “open door” should any employee be having difficulties.

  • A strong and well communicated set of benefits and policies – this sounds obvious but often there are benefits that support employee wellbeing that staff are simply not aware of. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP’s) are an example that we frequently come up against – these are potentially valuable resources that many employees have access to but are unaware of.

  • Collect the right wellbeing data - HR clearly has a key role to play here providing base data about absence levels but also employees' surveys, statistics from the usage of employee assistance programmes, referrals from occupational health and other such statistics which can all help create a balanced scorecard of employee wellbeing across your firm.

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