Article: Leaders must prioritise well-being for better results: Kate Renner

Employee Engagement

Leaders must prioritise well-being for better results: Kate Renner

For better business and individual growth, organisations need to invest in flexible working arrangements, building hybrid amenities for staff wellness and mental health, as well as tools to improve team connectivity, shares Kate Renner, Wisr's Head of Employee Experience.
Leaders must prioritise well-being for better results: Kate Renner

The ongoing supply chain disruptions and staff shortages, as a result of the Omicron variant, are adding stress for business leaders across Australia. The Australian CEO Survey 2022 reveals that 73 percent of CEOs are anticipating hardships in finding and retaining talent. 

In a recent essay in The Conversation, Mark Wooden and Peter Gahan of The University of Melbourne, wrote, “The issue here is not so much a Great Resignation, but how to deal with a Great Resistance to the idea of returning to the office, and the daily commute.”

A bigger hurdle that employers face currently is managing the continuing uncertainty, stress, and ensuring the well-being of employees. 

“Sice the start of the pandemic, I believe that wellness in the context of business has changed from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have.’ Employees won’t settle for a company that doesn’t put time, energy and investment into supporting them through different programs and initiatives,” said Kate Renner, Wisr's Head of Employee Experience, in a recent interview with People Matters. 

Wisr is Australia's only ASX-listed neo-lender. Recognised as one of the 2021 AFR Fast Starters and 2021 AFR Best Places to Work, Wisr has been taking several steps to reinvent its workplace practices and drive superior employee experience. 

With over 10 years of experience building people, culture and recruitment programs that deliver business results whilst cultivating a meaningful workplace experience, Kate is leading this transformation strategy at Wisr. 

Here’s what she had to say about the oncoming opportunities the new world of work presents and HR’s evolving role in helping organisations and talent make most of these opportunities:

In 2022, what are some of the workplace trends and innovations that you are looking forward to?

Knowing what we have learnt from the pandemic, there will be more organic inclusions of well-being programs and wellness-based initiatives. These initiatives will support flexible working arrangements, family considerations and the introduction of hybrid amenities for staff wellness and mental health, as well as tools to improve team connectivity. These are the areas that our staff is wanting more of and that we are putting into action.

The world of work has decisively entered the Era of Employees. How should the EX strategy of organizations shift where employees drive the majority of the changes?

EX strategy should be measured and pivot based on regular employee feedback. As Employee Experience professionals, we should always be considering what the business needs, how employees feel and the data that we have available.

What are some of the skills, values and strategies that will enable leaders to meaningfully transform the employee experience in 2022? 

In 2022, leaders need to help connect employee needs and strengths with business needs. As the pandemic continues to reshape what employees and businesses need and want, leaders need to develop their skills to support their people on the journey and help them find the right development opportunities aligned to their passions and the business needs.

How are you using technology to enhance employees' experience? What has worked for you so far?

Whilst working from home and in many cases, with staff in lockdowns and isolation, we introduced free Udemy access for Wisr staff. The e-learning platform has classes that vary from Russian to Graphic Design, coding to sewing. One of our core behaviours is ‘leaning into learning’, and we genuinely believe that learning supports mental health and allows our staff to bring their whole, authentic selves to work. 

We introduced Uprise, our new EAP for coaching and mental health support, to promote staff wellness. The online platform is available to all full-time Wisr staff members. Through Uprise, staff has access to 6 free counselling sessions, alongside a range of modules and guides to boost resilience, reduce stress and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

We created Slack channels to promote regular, open communication amidst the pandemic to enhance employees' feelings of connectivity. This included verbal call-outs on our company Slack channel: #give-a-hoot; whereby all staff across the business can thank a colleague for helping them, #book-club for keen readers, and #zen-crew for free online yoga classes.

Fears of Omicron notwithstanding, economies are cautiously reopening and the job market has begun to recover. How are you managing the ongoing uncertainties and ensuring business continuity?

At Wisr, we have grown our business results through the pandemic. In FY21, we generated $27.2m in revenue, with a 280% increase from the previous year. We have also brought on new starters and grown departments in line with our growth trajectory. We've delivered an incredible 21 consecutive quarters of growth. 

Our results are primarily due to our ability to attract and retain Australia’s top talent. By developing a high-performance culture that has the systems in place to support our staff, nurture their resilience wherever they're working from and in whatever capacity they're able. Amid the pandemic stresses, we know everybody's ‘COVID normal’ is different. 

We have embraced flexibility and autonomy to ensure each member of our organisation feels supported and comfortable during this difficult time.

Our generous leave policy includes paid vaccination, sick and carers leave, and time off to focus on mental health and well-being. While our Sydney office remains open to those who choose to use it, we promote flexible and remote working. Across the business, we stay connected through weekly 'coffee chats' and fortnightly 'Town Hall' business updates via Zoom. We also introduced an initiative where a 'Happiness Pack' was sent to every Wisr employee, filled with treats and activities tailored to their interests.

These initiatives translate to happier, more supported, and more creative workers. Our recent eNPS survey bears the proof: 98% of staff recommend Wisr as a great place to work, and 93 percent said Wisr helps them contribute to personal growth. By supporting and nurturing our team, especially during difficult times like these, we drive productivity and motivate our team to succeed.

In the new year, how do you see the role of HR evolve and how are you preparing for these new expectations? 

The role of HR evolves greatly every few years and has developed even more through the pandemic. We’re seeing the creation of roles like Head of Remote Experience, and with these developments, we need to be proactive in supporting our hiring managers. For us, this looks like implementing tools and software, such as Lever, to make the process more streamlined. A priority for us is to build a best-in-class candidate experience as well as support business growth and future skill needs by nurturing development and connection.


Now is the time to be courageous, to prepare for the oncoming opportunities, and to think 10X. Join us at the People Matters Futurist Forum as we reflect on what 10X means for you, your teams and your organizations.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Strategic HR, Corporate Wellness Programs, #RemoteWork, #PerformanceBeyondProductivity, #PMFuturistForum

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