Mental Health Awareness (Part Two): How technology can help HR drive employee wellbeing
This is Part Two of Two of an article by Emma Morris, SAP SuccessFactors Manager at Delaware. In recognition of the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, the folks here at Business Chief want to remind you to take care of your mental state, focus on self care and - if you're struggling - consider talking to somebody. Stay healthy, folks.
The Role of Technology
Technology should be in the background rather than the forefront but it needs to be an enabler. This is key to achieving the business case around the drive for well-being in the workplace today. After all, well-being should never just be a tick-box exercise. It has to be about more than just compliance. The fact that someone says they have attended an online training course is great, but just clicking on it, going off and making a cup of tea before coming back to it later, may not add that much long-term value.
Moving forwards, there are perhaps greater dividends to be won from proactively engaging with people using Pulse-type surveys to just check-in with people to ask how they are feeling on any given day, or using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be able to read patterns and create algorithms around human interactions and movements, and then proactively reach out to employees.
A good example may be the organisation saying: we notice that you have a lot of work travel coming up that you have booked via the corporate agency: have you considered the annual leave you will take after that? This approach is so much better for an employee’s well-being than the employee internalising the frustration and having to cancel leave because of a heavy workload, without anyone from the company ever intervening or actively engaging with them. By using the intelligence acquired through analytics, employers can spend their time being more ‘human’.
Flexibility is always key here. Some people like to connect and engage in-person. They want a water cooler conversation or a cup of tea and a quiet chat. Other people would prefer to have a web chat or a text message exchange. They want to give their problem to a computer and receive an automatic solution. The technology has to be clever enough to evolve with that.
In HR, more specifically, the general trend has been to use technology to support employee and management self-service. Today, we continue to see a lot of innovation in the areas of mobile technology. We are increasingly seeing HR professionals using mobile apps to do quick tasks on the run, for example. The latest technology in this area allows you to quickly approve annual leave, check in and ensure you have completed your timesheets, even if you are travelling and offline.
This kind of capability is available in today’s workplace. Looking to the future, though, we see a growing emphasis on bots and using machine learning to predict upcoming events. As an example, an employee wants to apply for maternity leave through the organisation’s HR system. This employee ‘life event’ triggers the HR department to start offering certain content specific to that employee, so for example, asking: have you thought about childcare vouchers? Have you thought about the return-to-work programme or our part-time working options?
This is the level of sophistication that companies such as Amazon and Netflix have reached today, with little fanfare. The provide their users with relevant, timely information in a personalised manner. Most people are familiar with it happening in their personal lives, receiving recommendations from retailers, and reminders to arrange medical appointments. So, if there is an absence of this kind of technology in their work life, it may suddenly start to feel quite jarring.
In the workplace of the future, employees will expect employers to not only care about their well-being and mental health, but also take proactive action to protect it. Putting the right culture in place is key. Every employee should feel involved and understand how they can help achieve the overall well-being strategy. Technology can be the catalyst in delivering this. Implementing the right systems and solutions enables businesses both to drive through new well-being initiatives and measure their effectiveness organisation-wide.