Backstage with Tim State: Q&A With a 2018 Employee Engagement Keynote Speaker

May 31, 2018 | Human Capital Institute (HCI) | HCI
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It’s one thing to get the best talent in the door. In many cases, it can be quite a different challenge to get them to stay. As the old adage says, people don’t leave jobs. They leave managers. At the 2018 Employee Engagement Conference, keynote speakers from organizations like Pepsico, Whirlpool, United States Golf Association, and the State of Tennessee will take the stage to discuss how leaders can create authentic connections, drive real accountability for engagement among managers and leaders, and retain critical talent.

One of those experts is Tim State, Enterprise Vice President at Humana. At this year’s event, he’ll be presenting “The Power of Purpose in a Culture of Well-Being.” Tim is passionate about well-being in the workplace and its power to impact the destiny of individual employees as well as the organizations and customers they serve. We caught up with Tim to learn a little more about why the employee experience matters, and how organizations can embed well-being into the workplace.

What’s different in a purpose-driven organization?

TIM: Purpose-driven organizations are different in three key ways. The first is in the business’s strategy and decision-making.

When there is a clear, tangible, unifying purpose running throughout the organization at all levels, it guides choices, especially how a strategy is formed and how it evolves. A purpose creates the ultimate yardstick by which we can measure the quality of our decisions and it helps us get better over time. Michael Porter, a well-known thought leader in business strategy, once said something like a great strategy feels like a cause. I think you could probably flip that around and say a great cause deserves a strategy that you can feel.

Culture and people are the second differentiator at purpose-driven organizations. Most of us desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Sadly, today, in a lot of corporate life, people feel like they need to go outside the company to fulfill that part of themselves. Organizations with a clear purpose can attract people who are excited about contributing to that purpose and bringing their gifts and their strengths, their passions, their interests, their whole self into their work.

Third, an organization’s purpose should be evident in the customer experience. Ultimately, the impact of any purpose should be present in the experiences of the individuals and communities that we have the privilege of serving. Since the experience of the customer can't really exceed that of the employees, ensuring that the purpose is lived from the inside out becomes vitally important. The ability to assess and measure how well the purpose is being achieved in the experience of the customer is a crucial facet of this. Measuring the right metrics allows us to create the accountability in the organization that a good, worthy purpose deserves and establishes feedback loop with customers to ensure that we're really getting it right.

What are some specific initiatives Humana has implemented to become a purpose-driven organization?

TIM: Humana’s purpose is to help people achieve lifelong well-being, so we wanted to bring that purpose to our employees as well as to our customers. Over the last several years, we've worked to really nurture something of a social movement inside the organization around achieving greater well-being in line with something we call our Bold Goal. That goal, simply stated, is to help the communities we serve become 20% healthier by the year 2020 by making it easy for people to achieve their best health. The Bold Goal gave our purpose a deadline and brought clarity what we were doing.

At Humana, well-being means thriving in four dimensions: a sense of purpose, a sense of health (physical and emotional), a sense of belonging, and a sense of security. We engage our employees in that effort through experiences like assessments, social support through a network of grassroots wellness champions, and leadership reinforcement and modeling.

Perhaps most importantly, we set company-wide goals, many of which are multi-year and visible to our board. We track our progress down to the team level along those four dimensions of well-being, as well as other key drivers of culture. The establishment of the Bold Goal itself has really continued to sharpen our actions. We measure that Bold Goal through a tool that the CDC developed called the Healthy Days Metric. This tool tracks an individual’s experience of physically unhealthy and mentally unhealthy days in the last 30 days and allows us to set goals beyond just physical health.

How have these well-being initiatives and goals helped Humana achieve their business goals? Where have you seen the most drastic improvements?

TIM: Today, based on our journey, roughly 90% of our employees say that Humana's purpose and our Bold Goal inspires them. That's pretty tremendous. It shows that we’ve been able to cultivate a sense of optimism in our teams and a commitment to what we’re doing. That’s the kind of inspiration that will show up in the little things that our teams do every single day on behalf of those that we serve, so that's exciting.

Overall, we’ve seen improvements of over 25% in each of the four dimensions of well-being. This translates to positive business impacts such as two times fewer unhealthy days, three times fewer days of missed work, and three times lower perceived stress. All of these benefits add up to another crucial metric—employees are three times less likely to be looking for another job.

When you look at employee engagement itself, the impact of our purpose and commitment to well-being really shines. Over the last several years we've maintained world-class levels of engagement as defined through the Kenexa worldwide database—roughly at the 90th percentile. Year in and year out, the top statistical driver of that result has been that associates feel like the company is committed to their individual well-being.

To hear more from Tim on this topic, including actionable steps you can take to cultivate a more purpose-driven organization, listen to the full podcast here.

Don’t forget to join us for the 2018 Employee Engagement Conference taking place July 30 – August 1 in Denver, Colorado.