The Story Behind the Story: Understanding how employees really feel


We’ve acknowledged the problem but organisations have not yet had their epiphany. Understanding how to systematically measure and manage intangibles like mental health and social capital will have a dramatic effect on organisational performance.

There has been tremendous progress over the past few years as organisations have become increasingly alive to the importance and impact of wellbeing, culture and internal relationships. However, an article published this week in ‘People Management’ highlighted the disconnect that exists between how HR view their employees state of wellbeing, productivity and morale and how employees really feel about the pandemic.

In reality, employees view the current situation far more negatively than HR teams. 40% of HR professionals said productivity was ‘very good’ compared to only 20% of employees. Similarly, while 41% of HR leaders said morale was ‘very good’, this sentiment was only shared by 17% of workers.

The level of disconnect between what organisations think and how their people really feel is not all that surprising. The current level of investment and ‘science’ that go into measuring intangible assets like mental health and social capital is really negligible. There are concerns that the virus could permanently change people’s connection to both work and their colleagues. Overcoming issues and opportunities in real depth requires more than an engagement survey or short mental health questionnaire.

Organisations will need to understand ‘the story behind the story’. This might include a solid understanding of the drivers of positive mental health, productivity and relationships, as well as providing employees with a platform to explain in confidence how they feel and what they think. We often don’t know how we feel until we have to explain it!

It is estimated that a staggering 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. The estimate was made before a global pandemic, the subsequent loss of connection between colleagues and an environment in which many of us are finding it difficult to stay consistently motivated.

It is self-evidently valuable to look after the wellbeing of employees and we are witnessing an encouraging trend toward empathy and kindness. But good intentions are not enough. The goal should be for organisations to do more than simply provide generic wellbeing resources. Rather, they should gain deeper insight into how their people may thrive. After all, happier, positively functioning employees deliver enhanced performance.

If you’d like to learn more about our programme to help organisations understand the story behind the story, then please get in touch with us.