Well-Being: Aligning Values at Royal & SunAlliance

It has been suggested that the absence of employee well-being and/or the presence of stress is often caused by the conflict between the individual’s values and beliefs and those of the organisation or system that they work within – see Fr Dermot Tredget and Barbara Wren’s comments here.

If this is the case, it must be in the employer’s best interests to minimise the source of conflict by trying to align personal and organisational values.

Sometimes, this alignment can come from unexpected sources, and happen almost by chance. Take the Corporate Responsibility initiative launched by Paul Pritchard at Royal & SunAlliance last year.

You’ve probably come across many people who say that they are different people inside and outside the workplace – when they go to the office, they might put on a suit or a uniform (armour?), leave a large chunk of their personal life at the gate and behave in a way they think fits the corporate culture. An intriguing example appeared in a survey at R&SA, which revealed that employees’ have greener behaviour at home than they do at work (e.g. 94% switch off lights at home, whereas only 66% do so at work). Feedback suggested that employees would be greener at work if R&SA led by example.

As a result Pritchard set up project which resulted in R&SA going carbon neutral in December 2006 – in fact, it was the first UK insurer to achieve carbon neutral status. Employees were so impressed by this commitment to the environment that in the follow-up survey 63% said it changed their behaviour in the office. That’s a pretty substantial move towards aligning values I think.

The company then went one step further by reviewing its relationship with the charity sector and in particular, how it could get employees more involved. Rather than dictate which charity to support, the Senior Team decided to try a more novel approach, through a National Volunteering Week, where employees were encouraged to spend one day working for the charity or community organisation (e.g. school) of their choice.

Some 750 employees participated in the scheme, and as you’d probably expect, the vast majority (83%) said they volunteered because they wanted to benefit the charity or community organisation in some way; only 23% said it was because they themselves wanted to learn new skills.

What’s fascinating about this initiative is that after the day spent volunteering, 67% of the volunteers said they learnt new skills, and 100% said they wanted to do it again and would recommend it to their colleagues.

I don’t think that R&SA conducted any research into whether employees knowingly used their strengths on this day out, but the fact that they had a choice about what voluntary work to do suggests that they probably did. That looks like a win/win to me – not only do your employees do something aligned with their own values which is of benefit to others, they have the opportunity to use their strengths, they come back to work more enthusiastic and engaged, and with some new skills too. It’s a no-brainer isn’t it?

Congratulations to Paul Pritchard, his team and the volunteers at R&SA for such a positive contribution.

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