Jeffrey Pfeffer has taught at Stanford University since 1979. He is the author or coauthor of 15 books including “Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t” and “The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First.” Ahead, he will touch on how employers can foster a more collaborative and inclusive work environment for improved employee wellbeing.
Through your research, what are some effective tools or resources you have found to improve employee wellbeing?
The first management principle, which goes back 1,000 years, says the things that we measure, we do something about. So the most important thing to do to improve employee wellbeing is to measure it. The second thing, which is related to measurement, is prioritization. Years ago, companies didn’t do much about their customers, until they figured out it was cheaper to keep a customer than it was to find a new one, which drew them toward customer loyalty. And as soon as you make something a priority, you are willing to experiment and see how you can improve the measure that you prioritize.
Why is it crucial for companies to offer a broad range of benefits, and how can they ensure employees utilize them?
Healthy employees are behaviorally and physically more productive and miss fewer workdays, so it’s in the employer’s interest to keep employees healthy. But to offer a range of benefits that keep people behaviorally and physically healthy, you don’t want to be pennywise and pound foolish. You want to deliver benefits in a cost-effective way, but you want to make sure that employees also have easy access to them and are encouraged to utilize them.
What types of benefits and rewards are employees seeking today?
Traditional health benefits administrators have bad networks. Employers need to think more broadly about prevention rather than remediation, which means they need to think of the culture that they build. Why, for instance, would you not try to reduce the prevalence of obesity, so that you could prevent cardiovascular disease? Even if you don’t care about human life, do you care about the fact that cardiovascular disease and similar chronic diseases are extraordinarily expensive? The orientation of benefits administration makes no sense in that there is too little emphasis on prevention and too much emphasis on controlling costs after they occur.
Why is corporate culture so important and what solutions can leaders employ to continue improving their workplace environment?
When you look at what affects health, both behavioral and physical economic insecurity, it’s layoffs and scheduling issues. If you’re paid by the hour, and your schedules are uncertain, for instance, you never know how much you’re making per week. So economic insecurity, you know, is a cause of all these problems. Long working hours is a cause of these problems. An absence of job control or job autonomy is a cause of these problems. Work family conflict is a cause of these problems. A culture that prioritizes employee wellbeing is going to build a culture that addresses these, and a culture that doesn’t is going to have a problem.
In the increasingly remote work landscape, how can corporate leaders leverage online collaboration tools to foster a more inclusive and positive work environment?
Many software development companies have what’s called distributed teams, which means people working around the globe on products. How do you achieve effective collaboration across time zones? Pam Heinz in the management science and engineering department found that if the groups had come together at some point, the collaboration was pretty good, but if they had never met face to face, it was tougher.
So prior to COVID, people were collaborating. I mean, they were in an office, but they all weren’t in the same office. So, to some extent, remote work predates COVID biowatch. You have people with dispersed operations, working on not only product development and software development, but also other things like marketing and strategy. Sometimes a small organization will hover to under 300 people, but have those people distributed around the world. So the issue of building a culture and the issue of how to get people to collaborate effectively really predates COVID.