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I was reading an older article on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website recently about employee well-being. There was a quote in the article that struck me:
People who don’t feel positive about themselves or their lives don’t do extraordinary things. People who feel good about their lives do great things, for themselves and their employers.
So there’s a definite reason to focus on employee well-being. Employees who are burned out and stressed won’t perform well. And employees who do practice well-being will perform at a high level. But what does “practice well-being” mean? What does it look like?
Career fitness defined
Well-being has several components: physical, relationships, financial, community, and career. The one we tend to think of most often with well-being is physical. Physical fitness is the condition of being physically fit and healthy. It includes nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. Physical fitness is a part of well-being.
The other parts of well-being include financial, relationships, community and career.
Now let’s talk about the last component: career. Career fitness is the idea of being capable, happy, and engaged with work. It’s about enjoying the work we do each day and feeling our work matters. Just as we need to do things to stay physically or financially fit, we have to do things to stay “career fit.”
HR’s role in career fitness
For human resources professionals, we wear two hats when it comes to career fitness. First, as part of the management team, we need to create and implement career fitness programs as part of our well-being efforts. There’s an article on the Association for Talent Development (ATD) blog that said just 24 percent of employees whose companies offer a wellness program actually participate in it. The reason? Because the focus is on wellness and not well-being.
Apply that same logic to what we’re talking about here. If we don’t take into account ALL the components of well-being, not just one or two, then we’re not dealing with the whole person. And we cannot expect our efforts to be successful. Well-being works as a way to engage and retain employees. But only when we offer opportunities that address all the aspects of well-being, such as financial literacy workshops, corporate citizenship programs, and physical fitness classes.
In addition, organizations need to offer ways for employees to practice career fitness.
Career fitness is a form of career development
The second role that HR plays in career fitness is as a participant. Once programs have been created, HR is responsible for “drinking their own champagne.” However, it’s in a very personalized way.
Many organizations have formal career development programs. Career fitness isn’t a replacement for those programs. Career development programs might include training, leadership and management development, as well as academic programs.
Career fitness is a process that the employee uses to improve. It can be used to continue learning after taking an educational course. Or to set self-learning goals for the future. Career fitness offers people a personalized, flexible learning experience.
Here’s an example: In physical fitness, Health.gov says that each week, adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination thereof. It doesn’t tell you what activities to do. As an individual, you can figure that out. Choose the activities you enjoy the most.
In career fitness, organizations would make sure that employees understood the principles of career fitness and what they should do to practice career fitness. They would set expectations. Then, it’s up to the employee. I recently heard a conference speaker describe the idea as “we tell our employees they need to obtain XX hours of training each year. It’s up to them to find it and take it. But the company holds them accountable for taking training that’s valuable to their role.”
Promoting a culture of career fitness
HR and department managers need to work together to promote career fitness. The quote from the SHRM article I mentioned at the beginning applies to managers too. Stressed out managers or burned out HR functions will not send a positive message to employees. For a well-being program to work, HR and the senior management team must practice career fitness and set a good example. There’s a good reason to do so. Career fitness can lead to:
• Higher performance and productivity
• Employee promotions and organizational growth
In developing a well-being strategy, organizations have to include careers in the fitness equation. If you want to learn more about how to include career fitness in your broader well-being efforts, download this white paper, “HR Professionals: Are you practicing career fitness?” It offers detailed examples on how to develop a career fitness plan that you could use yourself or in your organization.
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The way to achieve long-term success is by becoming fit and staying fit in our careers. That’s career fitness.1