NextGen Know-How: Best Practices That Support Employee Well-Being and a Thriving Culture

content employee stretching at her desk
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

6 minutes

These six organizational and leadership practices help foster engagement and prevent the overwhelm that often causes employee attrition.

In our constantly evolving workplaces, there is one area that all organizations should prioritize as a strategic focus to attract and retain the best talent: well-being.

Well-being is a state of being comfortable, healthy and happy—a feeling of fulfillment, satisfaction with life and positive functioning.

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental, physical and emotional well-being of many employees. That’s why well-being will continue to be an extremely important element to focus on to keep highly engaged, productive employees.

The Elements of Workforce Well-Being

There are two elements of well-being: personal and organizational.

Personal well-being includes the flexibility and freedom to enjoy life outside of work. This encompasses healthy boundaries, greater involvement with family and children, time to rest and rejuvenate and recreation. Companies that expect employees to be responsive and available on weekends and vacations, insist on employees being in an office five days a week and care about results at the expense of their people will struggle to stay in business.

Organizational well-being includes an enjoyable work environment and culture, a meaningful and fulfilling position, a manager and colleagues who are supportive, development and opportunities for growth, and the ability to be authentic and use your strengths at work.

Gone are the days of staying at one employer your entire career to collect a pension and a gold watch. Today’s employees don’t want to work long hours at the expense of their personal lives; they want work that supports and contributes to their personal well-being (and they’ll leave your organization to find it). Employees want to enjoy and feel fulfilled by their work, and they want to work with leaders who appreciate and acknowledge their contributions.

Cultivating Well-Being as an Organization

Supporting employee well-being goes beyond wellness programs and employee assistance programs. These programs are beneficial and contribute to and support well-being in the workplace, but the most important influence on an employee’s experience at work is their direct manager.

Well-being should be a strategic priority at the organizational level. There are two important elements that impact well-being that, if practiced, can significantly increase employee well-being and engagement:

  1. A rigorous focus on management quality. Companies that employ transactional managers who micromanage and believe a paycheck is a reward for work, who don’t prioritize coaching and developing employees, and who don’t model healthy boundaries at work will increasingly struggle to keep exceptional employees. A toxic, demanding boss does not cultivate positive functioning. The practice of promoting employees to leadership positions based solely on technical proficiency will negatively impact employee well-being and your culture. One of the best practices you can implement credit union-wide is to only promote for leadership qualities and ensure you are promoting employees who can be successful in leadership roles. This includes preparing and training employees before they become leaders.

    Equally important is providing training and coaching to current managers who have not evolved their leadership and continue to employ a transactional management style. It takes a much higher level of skills and competencies to be an effective leader in today’s environment, and executives must proactively coach managers who have not evolved and take action if progress is not made.

  2. Evaluating resources. As organizations have become more complex, there is a tendency to require employees to do more with less. This is a slippery slope and often can result in employees feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. One of the biggest contributors to this is not evaluating resources during the strategic planning process. Many organizations create lofty goals for the year without properly evaluating the contingencies, resources and scope of projects. The result is an overwhelmed organization that struggles to achieve results. Taking the time to evaluate resources during the strategic planning process ensures your credit union can allocate resources appropriately and achieve exceptional results without undue stress and overwhelm.

Fostering Well-Being as a Leader

From an individual leadership perspective, these practices will support your team and create a culture where employees can bring their best effort each day.

  1. Schedule regular check-in meetings. It’s a simple practice, yet I am surprised by how many leaders don’t schedule regular meetings with their employees. This structure is a great way to not only check-in with employees but also to create connection. When designed correctly, a one-on-one meeting can be meaningful time together to share updates, feedback, support and provide coaching and development for each team member. Having regular connection points increases engagement and productivity.
  2. Encourage and model boundaries. I wrote a whole post on boundaries, with examples of how boundaries protect our time and energy and help you work at our best. Taking breaks throughout the day, disconnecting on weekends and vacations, and scheduling blocks of time on your calendar to focus on high value tasks are examples of boundaries. Parkinson’s law tells us that work tends to fill up the time we allot it. Compressing your workday (leaving at a reasonable time) encourages focus and productivity. The most successful leaders understand that they won’t get everything done. Our job is to stay on top of the most important key result areas of our job for maximum results. When you practice boundaries, you model for your employees a healthy work life balance that allows time for rest and rejuvenation and fosters each person to bring their best energy to work each day.
  3. Priority plan what’s important. Most leaders are so focused on projects and tasks that they struggle to find time for coaching and developing their team, providing meaningful feedback and demonstrating appreciation. Yet these are precisely the leadership practices that are most important for creating a high-performing team and a thriving culture. A best practice is to do what I call priority planning—putting important practices on your calendar ahead of time so they become a priority in your day. Examples of activities to [riority plan include scheduling recurring coaching sessions with each team member, time for strategic thinking and planning, vacations, doctor appointments, important children’s events and blocks of time for focused work on projects. All of these ensure that you prioritize important leadership practices that contribute to results and well-being.
  4. Prioritize appreciation and connection. On that note, one of the top reasons employees leave their companies is a lack of appreciation for great work. Leaders have complex and demanding jobs, and it can feel challenging to focus on people and results. To cultivate an environment of well-being and positive engagement, leaders need to be intentional with specific, meaningful feedback and appreciation. A handwritten note, a small and meaningful gift and quality time with your team are simple ways to demonstrate appreciation.

To create an exceptional culture, leaders should care about the whole person—not just work performance—and prioritize personal and organizational well-being. Not only will you create a culture where employees bring their best energy, effort and engagement to work each day, but your credit union will also achieve significant results.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or

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