Article: Leaders play a huge role in building psychologically safe environments for people: Suresh Rai, Unilever

Corporate Wellness Programs

Leaders play a huge role in building psychologically safe environments for people: Suresh Rai, Unilever

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Suresh Rai, VP, HR, South East Asia & Australasia (SEEA) Unilever, sheds light on how can organizations devise an effective employee well-being program.
Leaders play a huge role in building psychologically safe environments for people: Suresh Rai, Unilever

Suresh Rai, VP, HR, South East Asia & Australasia (SEEA) Unilever, leads a multi-country region and is a member of the SEAA Leadership Team. He is responsible for delivering exponential value to both the business and its people. His focus areas for the region are central to developing intra-preneurial purpose-led leaders who are unlocking business as well as creating positive social and environmental impact, spearheading better agility across the organization and ensuring the business is equipped with future-ready capabilities for growth and innovation.

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Suresh, who will be speaking at People Matters TechHR Singapore 2020, sheds light on how can organizations devise an effective employee well-being program.

Meet Suresh Rai at People Matters TechHR Singapore 2020 on 20th February 2020 at Marina Bay Sands.

What do you think are the two to three most critical factors which an effective employee well-being program should address?

I would enlist the following three factors as the most critical ones-

a. Addressing mental health stigma and building a strong support network of counsellors and health experts.

b. Building awareness of wellbeing, making employees aware of their own vulnerabilities and strengths.

c. Leadership support and visible sponsorship/ story-telling are critical enablers.

 What are some of the recent trends you are witnessing in employee wellness programs as business models and the ways of working shift?

First and foremost, change, complexity and business pressures are a reality! When pressure exceeds an employee’s ability to cope, it leads to feelings of stress and too much build-up of stress, inevitably, impacts our health, wellbeing and performance.

Also, line managers are key. They play a big role in enabling the teams’ ability to cope with stress.

Studies have shown that 70% of the team’s engagement and wellbeing scores are directly correlated to the line manager’s behaviours and ways of working.

Line managers need to become more aware and understand the role we possibly play as stress creators in team members lives.  

Further, adaptability is key, it is not realistic to design one program for all. At Unilever, the overarching framework is “Your Wellbeing, Your Way” which offers broad-based solutions. Lastly, programs have to be able to be customized for varied cultures/geographies and for our multi-generational, multi-lingual workforces.

 How can organizations leverage technology to successfully integrate well-being programs in the organizational culture?

There are two broad ways in which technology helps to integrate well-being programs in the organizational culture-

a. Digital wellbeing apps enable anytime/ anywhere access to information, experts and practices.

b. At an organizational level, they also help provide insights and data analytics, so we design better-targeted programs.

 What are some of the challenges organizations face while devising an integrated well-being program?

Organizations can face any or all of the following challenges in their path to designing an integrated well-being program-

a. Indifference or employees not recognizing their own wellbeing issues

b. Stigma and taboo around mental health

c. Cultural inhibitors and ways of working that are not mental health positive  

d. Excessive work pressure/ lack of time to prioritize self

e. Ad hoc transactional experiences with external experts are usually very momentary in impact. It is critical to tap into the employees to hear what they want rather than design and execute

 How can the leadership help in moving the needle from wellness to well-being in their respective organizations?

Organizations should remember that leaders become the role-models who can really land the subject by supporting people by sharing their own examples.

Also, leaders play a huge role in building psychologically safe environments for people to be able to state how they are feeling and seek support/ solutions unapologetically.

 

Join us in Singapore for People Matters TechHR 2020, Asia’s Largest HR & WorkTech Conference on 19-21 February 2020. Click here to register.

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Topics: Corporate Wellness Programs, #TechHRSG

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