We conducted a Q&A interview with Paul Heywood, Founder and Managing Director of Halcyon Life, regarding resilience programmes and employee engagement.
1. Could you introduce yourself and what you do?
I am Founder and Managing Director of Halcyon Life. Previously, I was IT Director at 3i, a FTSE100 Private Equity firm, and at the law firm Fieldfisher. I have also held senior positions at Allen & Overy, WHSmith, L’Oréal, EY and Ford Motor Company.
2. What does ‘resilience’ mean to you?
resilience is rather more specific. It has been described as “Supporting the whole employee” by Professor Nick Kemsley of Henley Business School in Stage 4 of his well-being model*. Kemsley says “the step change here is that the organisation has moved beyond physical well-being into the complementary area of mental well-being”.
3. What is a ‘resilience programme’?
‘Programme’ in the context of a ‘resilience programme’, refers to a set of strategic initiatives conducted and co-ordinated to create a sustainable improvement in the overall resilience (and thereby the performance) of the firm’s greatest asset, its workforce, not a one-off event like a well-being week, or simply implementing an initiative such as flexible working.
This is not a simple thing to achieve. As Professor Kemsley points out, in order to be fully effective, it must consider the culture of the organisation where the actions of senior management speak far louder than words. But it can be very rewarding.
In today’s busy world, a resilience programme must, critically, include a component which addresses the mental well-being of employees. But in order to be fully successful it must also include all of the areas in the previous stages of Kemsley’s model. These include physical safety, fitness, diet, sleep, social networks, etc. Somewhat controversially, this involves the firm taking at least an interest in the lifestyles of their employees outside of the office.
4. What are the three main benefits of a ‘resilience programme’?
The return on any investment is determined by the benefits derived directly from that investment. And, calling on my many years of managing and assessing IT programmes, benefits generally come in two types; tangible and intangible. Tangible benefits are physical benefits that can be measured, such as financial gains. Intangible benefits are just as real but usually require a greater degree of judgement in order to estimate their actual value to the firm. But often this is where the real value is to be found.
5. Is it possible to see a RoI on a ‘resilience programme’?
Yes. If your resilience programme covers all of the areas described above, then an immediate benefit will be an increase in the employee satisfaction of your workforce. This occurs directly as a consequence of the firm taking an authentic interest in their workforce not just as employees, but as people. According to Professor Alex Edmans of the London Business School**, companies with high employee satisfaction ratings also have higher levels of motivation within their teams. Therefore, the first benefit to be derived from conducting an effective resilience programme will be increased motivation throughout your organisation.
Edmans goes to on explain that organisations with high employee satisfaction also have higher levels of profitability in the long-term. Motivation might be an intangible benefit at this stage, but many other tangible benefits flow directly from it as we shall see.
6. What is the impact of a ‘resilience programme’ on client relationships in a Professional Services Firm?
In a professional services organisation, partners literally are the face of the firm as it is they who will win and conduct (or at least oversee) the services provided by the firm. Partners can be tempted to move firms by many things but one major reason for this is that they do not feel sufficiently valued by their current employer. It follows then that partners are less likely to leave your firm if they feel that the firm cares about them not just as a generator of fee income, but also as a person. This benefit is again intangible as you will not know which partners would otherwise have left. But should it happen, it will bring with it a very significant tangible cost, not only in fees lost (both directly to that partner and in referrals for other work) but also in the inevitable long-term loss of some clients, even if they don’t follow the departed partner to their new firm. And departing partners have been known to entice associates to follow them. Avoiding the cost and disruption of the loss of a partner is therefore a very significant benefit to the firm.
7. How can you apply a ‘resilience programme’ to a Professional Services firm?
Like all organisations, professional service firms have to compete for their business. They compete for clients, matters, partners, associates and support staff. But, unlike many other businesses, the competition is primarily about one thing; their people.
Of course, it is also about fee rates but I’ll assume you know your market and have got this about right. Therefore, the main determining factor on whether you win the work or you don’t is the quality and expertise of your partners and the fee earning teams who will conduct the work. But the problem with having all of this tacit knowledge in the heads of your fee earners is that if they become ill, or leave your firm, then all of their knowledge and experience is ‘lost’. Thus, it follows that you will benefit from having a team who are as healthy and resilient as possible enabling them to perform at their best.
8. How can a ‘resilience programme’ improve employee engagement?
There will be a significant intangible benefit of increased ‘presenteeism’. That is, the extent to which employees are focused and energised whilst at work. This is because of the increased ability to focus brought about by improved fitness (improved circulation and increased oxygen levels in the bloodstream and hence the brain) and increased motivation arising from the firm taking a sincere interest in their well-being. This benefit is difficult to measure accurately but can probably be best estimated as a small but invaluable increase in productivity across all staff. Additionally, according to Edmans, an unintentional consequence of motivating your staff is that they are also more likely to be more engaged and to make valuable suggestions for improvements.
9. Can a ‘resilience programme’ improve your organisation’s workforce in the long-term?
It is, unfortunately, true that your best people, if dissatisfied, tend to be the ones who are most likely to leave your firm. This is because they are more marketable than other employees and they also know their value in the marketplace. And when they leave, they take all of their experience with them which represents a significant intangible cost. This can also have a further knock-on cost through the demoralising effect on those left in their team.
But conversely, if you are able to retain your best talent, and motivate them still further by investing positively in them, it has an energising effect on those around them. It will be intangible since it is difficult to measure and you will probably never know who would otherwise have left (but you will be very glad they didn’t!).
10. Should ‘resilience programmes’ be focused on the financial or personal outcome?
It has to be said that estimates of the total benefits of resilience programmes are difficult to measure. This is primarily due to the newness of these sorts of programmes, and because of the intangible nature of many of the benefits. But by applying your own judgement within the context of your own organisation, the benefits can be seen to be potentially very significant, especially in the long term.
But of course, we shouldn’t only be doing this for financial benefit. We should also want to do it for very human reasons, because we care about our friends and colleagues, and for the ultimate embodiment of the ‘duty of care’ that all organisations should have for their employees.
* “Employee Well-being and Resilience”, Professor Nick Kemsley, Henley Business School.
** “Employee Satisfaction, Labor Market Flexibility, and Stock Returns Around The World” Edmans, A., Li, L., and Zhang, C., February 2017
This interview is exclusive to The Business Transformation Network.
Paul Heywood is Founder and Managing Director of Halcyon Life Ltd who run corporate Wellbeing and Resilience programmes for clients who wish to improve the health, fitness and resilience of their management teams and employees. Previously, Paul was a FTSE100 IT Director with a proven record of delivering significant commercial benefits within global blue chip organisations across many industry sectors, including Private Equity, Legal, Logistics, FMCG, Consulting and Manufacturing. During his career in the IT industry, he was responsible for IT Strategy and full-service delivery, led large teams and major IT programmes to enable business change, through excellent leadership and interpersonal skills.