There could be a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, as workplace wellbeing services kick into gear and demonstrate their long-term value to employers and employees alike.
That is the view of Colin Fitzgerald, Distribution Director of Group Protection at Legal & General, who was responding to today’s announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak of a package of initiatives to help protect and create jobs and kick-start the economy.
Sunak’s plan means that there will be a £1,000 cash ‘bonus’ for firms hiring young people into traineeship programmes from September.
Welcoming the initiative, L&G’s Fitzgerald said that business recovery “now rests on having engaged and motivated employees”.
He said: “This, in turn, will help improve the lives of everyone in the UK: creating real jobs and a better infrastructure to help overcome the current economic catastrophe and come out the other side a more responsible and sustainable society.”
Fitzgerald said that structured training programmes will go “a long way” towards attracting the right candidates to the right job in the right company, and will “no doubt” prove particularly attractive to more cash-strapped SMEs.
But he added: “It’s also important to remember that training and development should form part of a wider employee wellbeing programme: a programme built upon a clearly articulated purpose; with reward and benefits programme at its heart; designed and communicated in line with employee needs; and hardwired to business goals.
“The pandemic hasn’t changed any of this. What it has done – especially during lockdown – is made leaders realise the crucial importance of employee wellbeing to productivity and profitability.”
Fitzgerald said that employees now entering the workforce for the first time “place a premium on how companies care for them”.
He said: “How employers respond to wellbeing issues like stress, burnout and uncertainty will be a hallmark of their attitude towards responsibility and sustainability. Yet while 61% of people trust their employer to look after their wellbeing, only 29% of HR leadership have a health and wellbeing strategy in place.”
Fitzgerald said that the UK’s future workforce is searching for a “genuine shared purpose” and the “smart” organisations – those that hang on to employee wellbeing lessons learnt during lockdown – “will be the winners”.