Preventing a leak in the talent pipeline: the importance of wellbeing to develop, attract and retain talent

Stephen Heathcote, CEO, PrimeGlobal, explains that rather than reactively patching up the leaky talent pipeline, firms should take a proactive approach to wellbeing; one that prevents a leak occurring in the first place.


f the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our health is our wealth. This is a message that firms who are looking to attract, develop and retain the best talent need to incorporate into their strategy. The risk for those who overlook the importance of implementing wellbeing into their plans is that they are likely to discover a leak in their talent pipeline.

In November 2021, a record 4.5 million people left their jobs in the US. The so-called “Great Resignation” has been attributed to greater confidence among workers that they can not only find higher paid roles, but also more social working hours and better working conditions elsewhere.

Stephen Heathcote

Employee-centric strategy

Wellbeing plays a key part in PrimeGlobal’s talent development agenda, and earlier this year we dedicated a month for our global member firms to share with each other their practical approaches to creating wellbeing programmes that support the different needs of employees.

Knowing where to start when it comes to devising a wellbeing strategy can be hard. Fortunately, there is a good starting point close to home – your employees. As with the launch of any new product or service, market research is key. If you want to devise a strategy that works for your employees, you first need to understand what it is that they need and want.

Adopting an employee-centric wellbeing programme has been a key focus of PrimeGlobal’s US member firm Haynie & Company. Every three years, it conducts an employee engagement survey as well as additional annual surveys to understand its team’s needs. The surveys are hosted by third party companies and completed on an anonymous basis, which encourages employees to be honest in their responses.

Managing Partner at Haynie & Company, Dave Peterson explains “the surveys have helped shape the Haynie & Company wellbeing programme. It found that 58% of our employees said they would spend more time focusing on their health if wellbeing programs were offered through work. We now offer employees a wellness incentive plan, do fun health challenges, and provide monthly resources”.

David Peterson
Managing Partner at Haynie & Company

Our US member Yeo & Yeo is another firm that puts its employees at the heart of its wellbeing offering. The firm emphasises the importance of cultural alignment; having a programme that aligns with the firm’s existing culture is more likely to gain employee buy-in, than one which feels forced or “tone deaf”.

Another of our members that prides itself on encouraging a healthy work-life balance, and puts its employees centre-stage, is our Dutch member firm JOINSON&SPICE. JOINSON&SPICE’s value emotional well-being more than the materialistic factors of their job and believe strongly that their staff can maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life, and their employees are encouraged to prioritise wellbeing and set boundaries. One of their newest employees, Sean explains “in accountancy, you’ll always be busy. The shortage of accountants doesn’t help. There’s a massive workload and pressure in our sector. Everyone expects something of you, including yourself.”

“You have to set your boundaries and be honest and realistic with yourself when doing so. Sometimes working overtime is inevitable, but it helps to let your employer know in advance. Let them know that you need extra time to finish your work, and it’s in addition to your contract hours. It helps manage expectations and pressure.”

Allowing employees to set boundaries, like JOINSON&SPICE does, also has a pay-off for the business. “You do your employer a favour,” Sean says, “they will be able to make a more accurate estimation of the invested hours for a particular project.”

Multi-faceted approach

Wellbeing can be an equivocal term – it may mean very different things to different people. That is why it is important to implement a strategy that targets the many facets of wellbeing. A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that most companies’ wellbeing strategies focused on mental health, good work, social relationships, values/principles, and physical health. But other dimensions of wellbeing that firms may want to consider include personal development (eg mentoring), lifestyle choices (eg drinking, smoking) and financial wellbeing (eg pension advice, investment advice, debt counselling).

Taking a multi-pronged approach to wellbeing is exactly what PrimeGlobal’s Dutch member firm Eshuis does. Its Positive Health programme includes six dimensions, known as the “spider web”: bodily functions, mental wellbeing, meaningfulness, quality of life, participation, and daily functioning. Employees are encouraged to self-assess their health according to the spider web. This information is then used to discuss each employee’s specific wellbeing needs.

“Our biggest challenge is to keep our employees sustainably employable which is difficult because of the high workload within our industry and our sedentary lifestyle/profession," says Jorien Derkman, HR Manager at Eshuis.

Jorien Derkman
HR Manager at Eshuis

Its multifaceted Positive Health programme is helping Eshuis employees be more productive, less absent, and more motivated and dedicated to their work.

Haynie & Company has also embraced a wellbeing programme that caters to the many facets of wellness. It has provided staff with healthy eating presentations, a gift card for a preventative care exam, and incentivised employees through an award programme that allows them to earn up to $125 per year for completing physical and mental activities.

Have fun

Whilst adopting a wellbeing strategy should be a serious concern for firms, that does not mean there is no room for fun. In fact, injecting a bit of fun into your wellbeing programmes may encourage employees to get involved.

Action can be taken virtually and in person. This is what we at PrimeGlobal try to do virtually as our team is spread around the world. Our monthly “Eat, Drink and Chat” virtual social events are a great opportunity for employees to get to know one another in an informal environment. Team members share their Spotify playlists, play games, and have catch-ups. We also run regular virtual “Break at the coffee machine” sessions to help our employees from around the world to keep in touch.

We’ve introduced regular social events so we can meet and talk as a team, and I run quarterly CEO check-ins with every staff member, so I can meet with everyone on an individual basis and any concerns can be discussed.

Haynie & Company also encourages employees to have fun, by appealing to their competitive side. Its first company challenge, “Strive for Five”, encouraged employees to increase their fresh fruit and vegetable consumption to five portions per day over the course of four weeks. Employees gained points based on their fruit and veg intake and could trade those points for prizes.

Mending or maintaining the talent pipeline?

Few firms could argue with the premise that a successful strategy is proactive, not reactive. The same goes for a wellbeing strategy. Taking a proactive approach to maintaining employees’ wellness is far easier – and will yield far better results – than trying to “fix” a wellbeing crisis. The best time to implement a wellbeing strategy was yesterday – so if your employees’ wellness is not high on your agenda, it is time to make it a priority.

At a time when employees are quitting at record rates, and re-evaluating their priorities in life, firms cannot ignore the importance of homing in on wellbeing. This should not be a simple tick-box exercise; providing a one-off nutrition session or exercise voucher, for example. A successful wellbeing strategy is one that is employee-centric, multi-faceted and contains a (healthy) dollop of fun.

Firms that adopt such a strategy will soon reap the benefits. Employees are the lifeblood of a firm. Healthy employees are a key ingredient to a healthy firm; one which attracts, develops and retains the best talent. In short, a firm that has a robust wellbeing strategy is one that maintains the talent pipeline – rather than one that mends a recurring leak.