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Wellbeing as key driver ...


Integrating business performance with caring for people and the environment

Wellbeing is at the heart of what we do.  The end result is a significant improvement in the wellbeing of people and the environment, funded by a solid business case.  
In other words, wellbeing is driven as an asset of the organisation that helps to improve profitability, create job satisfaction and create a better environment to live and work in. 

Article written by Herman Potgieter

From a global competitiveness perspective, the underlying motivation, values and practices behind wellbeing and sustainability are major forces behind World Class organisations.  It is especially the case when we look at integrating wellbeing and sustainability in the fabric of organisatIons, as opposed to adopting a shallow compliance mentality.  The immediate value that New Zealand gains from Wellbeing and Sustainability that we can live a high-quality life in a beautiful environment.  However, from a business perspective, it also adds considerable value to productivity, profitability and the performance of the local economy.  It requires a re-look at how we conduct business and a deeper understanding of the practical next steps to achieve this.  It also offers an opportunity to significantly improve participation, collaboration and a deeper sense of belonging within organisations.

Businesses are often nervous about the liability and pressure around wellbeing and sustainability.  Yet, an increasing number of leading organisations are taking a different view; to them, the challenge is how to leverage wellbeing and sustainability as a means to accelerate performance.  There is an overwhelming body of evidence that shows a direct link between wellbeing and organisations' economic value with numerous examples.     It is, however, essential to understand how competitiveness, wellbeing and sustainability interact to drive performance.  It is especially important in the New Zealand construction environment, where our productivity has slipped over the last number of years.  The current focus on wellbeing offers an opportunity to address this situation, especially taking some of our existing cultural strengths in mind. 

The nature of global competition increasingly revolves around the pace of continuous performance improvement, where the rate at which companies are improving their value to clients makes it difficult for the competition to catch up.  The journey towards world-class competitiveness typically entails a phased or transformation approach to implement modern integration or alignment practices.  These are underpinned by values and culture as people and organisations thrive in an environment where there is a genuine care for one another and where people find meaning in their work.   It is on this fundamental level where wellbeing and sustainability plays a major role to inspire participation and accelerate competitiveness. 

Underlying wellbeing is the value of care for one another, where we are somewhat obsessive to ensure that no harm comes to ourselves and others.  This goes hand-in-hand with a genuine and deep-rooted respect for the individual and people.  For example, one principle of the Health and Safety legislation is that anyone who can prevent harm, has a duty to do so.  It means that the authority to question things and make improvements is cascaded across the organisation, which has a major impact on people’s participation and willingness to change.  Wellbeing and sustainability requires a much deeper and relentless questioning of the way we operate, which then also spills over into other areas of the business.    A well-known example where wellbeing was the overriding catalyst for change is in the case of Alcoa which grew five-fold in a decade, using caring for people as a key driver. New Zealand already has an underlying value of care for one another which gives us a headstart in this journey. 

 In terms of values, inspiration and business performance, sustainability performance also has a much deeper impact on organisations.  The urgency to halt the destruction of the environment and therefore the quality of life for our children and future generations, cannot be overstated.   The underlying value behind sustainability improvement is that it gives people more meaning to work.  Again, a major part of the Kiwi make-up is that we care for the environment on a very personal level and it has significant personal value to most people. 


A typical example where we reviewed the business processes of global mining and manufacturing firm and got the staff involved to examine the business, not only from a typical efficiency perspective but also through a wellbeing and sustainability lens.  Due to the personal value that people attached to wellbeing and sustainability, the level of involvement to identify improvement opportunities and implement the changes was phenomenal.     


We, therefore, have a golden triangle relationship between wellbeing, sustainability and business performance which feeds off one another and exceeds the sum of doing each in isolation.  In other words, the whole is significantly greater than the parts.  The interaction is not only on a value and culture level but also in terms of global best practices.  For instance, most of the modern integration and performance practices that Lumus embeds in organisations to improve performance are as applicable to wellbeing and sustainability as it is to productivity improvement.  Typical examples of these practices are Lean, continues improvement, self-managing teams, business process improvements and cross-organisational teamwork.  For instance, the disciplined system approach to problem-solving is a practice used to find the root causes of production improvement opportunities and it is exactly the same practice within the same teams that is required to understand the root causes of wellbeing issues and how to address this.  

It means less effort to drive the change due to personal buy-in and commitment and offers the following value proposition:

  • An inspired and empowered workforce;

  • Cost and operational improvement benefits;

  • A more valuable organisation in terms of long-term performance and sustainability;

  • More attractive to clients and brand value, due to changing attitudes towards wellbeing and environment;

  • Ability to attract and retain staff who feel proud to work there;

  • We now have one integrated business change initiative, rather than three separate ones and;

  • A more sustainable business with fewer legal compliance issues.

Whereas the current wellbeing drive of governments is often seen as a threat, it also offers the opportunity to rather use the current awareness to engage employees to re-look at processes and performance through a new lens.  At the end of the day, we still go home safely and enjoy our friends and families in a beautiful environment, but we now also build companies and an economy that can sustain this.

Within the download section is a free download of the wellbeing maturity framework, which helps organisations understand where they are in this migration process and the typical next steps to fully maximise value, based on their current level of maturity.  The framework is also provided on a creative commons basis, meaning that it is free to use for non-commercial purposes.

In addition to the wellbeing improvements, Rio Tinto reduced greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of tons a year and freshwater use by a few million tons per year in an environment where people are concerned about global warming.  Yet, in doing so, they delivered a multi-million $ cost-saving per year while increasing output in the key operations through waste reductions and efficiency improvements.  It totally obliterated the perception that wellbeing is simply a cost to the organisation.  These are the same lessons learned in many leading NZ and Australian organisations.  

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