How to use COURAGE to Succeed with Employee Wellness

courage employee leadership insights wellbeing wellness Nov 30, 2021

A UK-wide stress survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of UK adults had felt so stressed at some point in the previous year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. When accounting for gender, 81% of women said this, compared to 67% of men.

These troubling statistics which emerged from the largest known study of stress levels in the UK are even more alarming when we consider what has happened since. YouGov undertook the study in 2018, that is, before the global pandemic, and the plethora of other serious challenges, such as climate change concerns, systemic racism issues, and so much else, that each taken individually are highly conducive to unbelievable amounts of stress for the average person, yet here we are contending with them pretty much simultaneously.

This has caused quite the employee wellness crisis, evidenced by literally millions around the world voluntarily leaving their workplaces in what organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz termed "The Great Resignation".

To uncover what business leaders can do to combat this and ensure both their own and their team’s wellness, I recently conducted an Executive insights interview with Zoë Morris, President of Frank Recruitment Group.

As the brilliant and inspiring Zoë shared about her background, current role, and how she is navigating the ongoing global turbulence in her own life and work, it hit me: “the Leaders that will successfully overcome this, must do so with courage.”

By courage I mean two things; first, in the literal sense of leading courageously, but also, in practicing 7 time-tested strategies for success in business that Zoë shared.

I satisfyingly discovered they can be also be summarised using COURAGE as an acronym. I invite you to check them out below, and use the most relevant to help you, and your team.

C - Chunk it down

When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges like you might be right now with ensuring employee wellness, or anything else, Zoë advises “chunking it down”. Rather than try to solve everything all at once, ask yourself, what’s the next incremental challenge we can tackle?  Do that successfully, then move on to the next thing, and then the next, and before you know it you’ve achieved much more than you could have imagined.

This approach has proved extremely powerful for her with so many things, including navigating her own career path. She said, “when I started out as a recruitment consultant years ago, to think of becoming President of an incredibly successful, hyper-growth technology recruitment company would have been scary, and quite frankly overwhelming at that time. Instead, I just looked at the challenge in front of me, and sought to tackle it exceptionally well.  Then I did that with the next goal, and the next, until I got here.”

O - Overdeliver on Expectations

If there are several pressing challenges before you, it can be tempting to stay in “fire-fighting mode” doing the bare minimum that’s expected on each one. However according to Morris, taking this approach long term is not conducive to uncovering the most innovative solutions to problems. Her relentless focus on overdelivering has certainly served Frank Recruitment Group and its valued clients extremely well so far.

In addition to providing the world class recruitment services expected, her team of consultants spend thousands of hours speaking to their clients about their greatest challenges.  From those they develop value-add solutions and services that make a real difference.

One of many wonderful examples of this is the Women in Tech desk that the company launched in January 2020. Its goal is to help clients make real progress against the ongoing issue of a lack of diversity in the Tech industry; just 20% of employees, and 9% of senior leadership are women.

 Frank Recruitment Group’s Women in Tech desk ensures that clients get the education, support, and diverse shortlists they need to build a more diverse, inclusive, and therefore successful workforce. It also helps ensure that the women in their ecosystem are given the highest chance of success through education and mentoring in the linked MentorMe program.

 Seeking to overdeliver has led to Morris and her team to launch several other impactful and win/win initiatives for employees, clients, and others over the last 18 months under their “Diversity Matters”, “Wellness Matters” and “Sustainability Matters” work streams.

U - Use faith over feelings where possible

With all the new initiatives that come up as one seeks to overdeliver, there is a real risk of failure that can cause anxiety and stress for some leaders during already pressured circumstances. I was therefore curious as to how Zoë handles this uncertainty, and the potential negative impact on her own wellbeing.

Her answer to my question on this makes up this next point: "use faith over feelings where possible". She said, “throughout my career, I have found that you are often presented with opportunities just before you feel ready for them. You may never feel ready, so you have to take that leap of faith.”

She also stressed the importance of having whatever support you need in place as a leader to take such leaps, while also looking after yourself in the process. Her bold leadership style has helped Frank Recruitment Group consistently achieve substantial year-on-year growth, while also winning many industry-based awards.

R - Reflect on past successes to build confidence

As we continue into uncharted waters, one thing Zoë advises leaders to consistently work on building is confidence, which makes taking those leaps of faith easier. She has intentionally done this through reflection since early on in her career.

With each new and bigger project or job that felt daunting due to all the unknowns, she built confidence by looking back to previous appointments before joining Frank Recruitment Group; some of which made her feel like “she was pushed out of a plane and expected to figure out how to fly”. She however went on to surprise herself with what she learnt, and went on to achieve.

So, now, while it’s tempting to move from one crisis or project to the next in the current business climate, Zoë advises regular reflection on what’s worked well in the past, to build confidence as one moves forward. Such regular reflection helps her confidently lead her global team through these challenging times.

A - Acquire, analyse and act on data

According to Zoë, this next step is a critical key for success with employee wellness, and quite frankly anything else - acquire, analyse, and act on all sorts of data. In the same manner that the company tracks, and responds to various indicators to ensure business productivity and success, it does the same for employee engagement and wellness.

Zoë says that “this is not just the right thing to do, it makes perfect business sense, as some of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today include poor employee retention and engagement, both of which end up proving extremely costly if neglected.” Her approach includes seeking to collect data on how the team are doing and feeling through regular engagement surveys, and ensuring that the company’s board work through the data to do what they can to maintain an upward trend.

G - Give generously

As you act on the data, give generously where possible, and you will reap the rewards and benefits of this according to Zoë. Some of the generous investments the Frank Recruitment Group Leadership team have made into employee wellbeing under their "Wellness Matters" program include:

  • Professionally training 17 mental health first aiders to support anyone facing serious wellness challenges
  • Instituting separate wellness champions in the various countries to make further recommendations to the board 
  • Providing a hybrid work policy which allows for flexible start and finish times  
  • A global wellness challenge (which over 500 employees took part in) aimed at cultivating belonging and wellbeing  
  • Leaders giving generously of their time and insights such as: 
    • The Company CEO sharing about his own wellness challenges and tips in his monthly blog, and
    • The “Buddy up with the Board” program in which each board member makes themselves available to 5 members of the team around the world each week for 15 minutes each to talk about anything they wish.

These initiatives have all been truly win/win experiences for Frank Recruitment Group Leaders and employees.

E - Encourage creativity in yourself and others

The final tip is to encourage creativity in yourself and others. “Because we have no frame of reference for the wellness challenges we face, we have to encourage creativity in order to come up with the innovative solutions that will be effective” per Zoë.   She likened this to the approach her team are taking as they serve the company’s clients.

The events of the last 18 months have caused a record increase in the demand for cloud talent; Salesforce alone are predicting that 4 million more people are needed by 2025. Right now, that talent does not exist, so Zoë and her team are having to do what they can to create talent with the right skills, as well as educate clients on considering different skillsets to get the jobs done, so that enormous demand for talent can be met. Such creativity is crucial.

While no one knows for sure what the months and years ahead hold, I am pretty certain that approaching and navigating them with COURAGE as Zoë shared during our enlightening conversation will significantly increase one's chances of success in improving employee wellness and much else.