Wellbeing has become an increasingly important topic for businesses to address, but many may not understand what wellbeing actually means for employees. The thoughtful message of wellbeing to both employees and future talent is more important to address now than ever before.
This week’s host, Nicole Presperin, Aon’s head of global growth strategies and planning, Reinsurance Solutions, is joined by Rachel Fellowes, Aon’s chief wellbeing officer, and Lucy Bousfield, Aon’s head of global talent acquisition, for a conversation about wellbeing at Aon and how the firm is addressing the wellbeing needs of colleagues.
Rachel Fellowes Named Aon’s Chief Wellbeing Officer
Aon Health and Wellbeing Resources
On Aon Podcast Episode 26: On Aon’s Approach to Wellbeing With Anthony Scattone and Kelli Clark
HR Executive: Meet Aon’s first chief wellbeing officer
Welcome to “On Aon,” a podcast featuring conversations between colleagues on, well, Aon. This week, we hear from Rachel Fellowes and Lucy Bousfield about wellbeing. And now, this week’s host, Nicole Presperin.
Hi, I am Nicole Presperin. I've been a colleague at Aon for 11 years, where I've worked in various roles across the commercial risk solutions group, new ventures group and the reinsurance solutions group. I currently serve as the head of global growth strategies and planning for Reinsurance Solutions. I'm also very passionate about creating a more inclusive and diverse culture at Aon. I'm a member of the Global Inclusive Leadership Council and co-executive sponsor for the pride Business Resource Group, which makes me even more excited about today's topic of wellbeing, which has relevance to me, all of our colleagues, listeners and clients.
With me today to dive into this topic are Rachel Fellowes and Lucy Bousfield, who are in the wellbeing space and also working mothers. Rachel joined Aon in February of this year and serves as Aon's chief wellbeing officer. Rachel works on Aon's internal wellbeing strategy, and also works closely with Aon's Health Solutions and Human Capital Solutions to empower clients to build wellbeing programs. And Lucy has been with Aon since 2013 and currently serves as Aon's head of global talent acquisition. Lucy has a global pulse on the importance of wellbeing for employees and candidates, particularly amid changing workforce trends.
Thanks for being here today, Rachel and Lucy. Before we get started, I'd like to ask you both a warmup question. Tell me a little bit about your role in the firm. Rachel let's start with you.
Hi, Nicole. It's a pleasure to be here, and Lucy, fantastic to join you in this conversation. I mean, Nicole, you've hinted at it a little bit, but I wrote an article about the rise of the chief wellbeing officer a couple of months ago, and it's one of the most read articles in the U.S. at the moment in the HR space, and the reason being , what does it mean? What are they up to? Why are more people becoming chief wellbeing officers?
And on the most part, you've actually touched on what it is about. It's about thinking through, how do we help our Aon colleagues, or should I say families, really consider their wellbeing through their Aon life? Maybe uniquely in the market, I also have a second hat or part of my role, as you've touched on, but it's ultimately having exactly the same question, but with our clients, whether it be starting off from a benefits conversation or an employee value proposition perspective or even considering mental health as a risk now. How do we start to think more maturely about wellbeing, and hopefully collectively change the world in a positive way, without sounding too esoteric.
That's great, Rachel. Thank you so much. And Lucy, how about you? What can you tell our listeners about your role at Aon?
Thanks, Nicole. I'm also really pleased to be in this discussion today, because in my role as the head of global talent acquisition, what we're seeing is a market that is completely different than we've seen in a number of years around the pressure on talent. And what we're also seeing is the drivers for future talent to join organizations, or even current colleagues, is that wellbeing is now becoming one of those real key candidate drivers. Compensation always used to be right up there, and it will always continue to be so, but the importance of how you support both your current colleagues and people you're looking to bring on board needs to be part of any talent acquisition strategy. So, it's absolutely front and center for me as I am in this role.
Thanks Lucy. It's exciting to hear how Aon is thinking about wellbeing as mental health as well, because I know how important that's become, especially during the pandemic. So, let's jump right in. First question: Wellbeing can be a very broad topic. How do you define wellbeing? Rachel let's start with you.
I know this a podcast, but you can probably see that I've got a massive smile on my face, because I've done many conversations, or had many conversations over the first five months at Aon, and usually the question goes, whether it be in the client space or internally, can everyone please stand up, and please stay standing if you can confidently articulate what wellbeing means. And with that 90% of the room sit down. So, it's a sentiment that we are really kind of thoughtful, and what does it mean now? And maybe I had a definition in the back of my head, but I don't know if that's still relevant.
So historically, wellbeing has sort of been thinking around the balance between life satisfaction, how satisfied am I nowadays with what's going on for me, and balancing that with happiness, the sort of daily life experiences that give me a positive feeling or an oxytocin fix, as we're now becoming more familiar with. But then the pandemic happened. Then global warming, as a kind of genuine mental illbeing crisis sort of started to happen, and very many different layers individually, organizationally and globally started to affect us.
And we started to use language around wellbeing, such as resilience. How do I bounce back from things that are really targeting my own sense of happiness and satisfaction? And maybe we are, as Lucy hinted at before, we're at a slightly different turning point now, where we're all slowly recalibrating what we want our life to look like. And wellbeing is part of that life design and how we think about sustaining our career, our relationships with ourselves, as well as with other people, for the next however many years we've got left.
And so, I think it's refined, it's defined and evolved over the last few years in particular, and I know on our impact report, we very clearly say it's about whole performance now. So in the workplace, we're thinking about all these dynamics very much as part and parcel of the performance conversation.
And Lucy, what are your thoughts on this? How are colleagues and candidates thinking about wellbeing?
Well, I think Rachel also sort of started to go there with this turning point, and I mentioned it, I think, in my introduction. Wellbeing is now so important, both for colleagues and candidates, and the strength of your wellbeing strategy can really deliver that message out to candidates and colleagues. And if you don't get this right, it can be a trigger to losing that key person on your team or sending them in the direction of a competitor. So, with the challenges in the marketplace, the great resignation, there's even more pressure, as I've already said, around your position, and really being thoughtful about how you support your colleagues and that future talent.
I mentioned that compensation continues to be a key feature. However, the last few years, the candidate drivers that we are seeing are around culture, flexibility, benefits. These are the questions that we are being asked when we talk to candidates in the marketplace about Aon, and how does that translate to somebody coming to join us as a firm? These are really key items when candidates are looking for jobs, but also when our current colleagues are thinking about staying within an organization or staying within Aon.
So, to be effective, what we've seen is, you need to be happy. You need to be engaged in your role, and that's what candidates and colleagues are really looking for. So, it's really critical that what we are finding is to make your approach of wellbeing being part of your colleague experience and your brand, really making it personal, to understand for someone wanting to join us or stay with us, what does it feel? What does it look like? What's that experience for somebody being here at Aon?
And what we found over the last few years. Due to COVID and the pandemic, is that burnout has also become more prevalent. And it isn't a new concept. It's been around. But what we are finding is that more people are talking about this. More organizations are talking about this. Candidates, colleagues are talking about this. So, for companies, there's a huge cost, and that comes across through productivity, disengagement, attrition, but also for individuals, and we're starting to see more words around, topics around mental health and prolonged stress.
An employee's response to burnout needs to be proactive, and that's what some of our candidates and colleagues are looking for when they start to engage with a firm or stay with a firm. And as we think about wellbeing, one of the other things we need to think about is that inclusion. So, if you think about, if you want to be happy and you want to be engaged, you need to feel included. You need to be able to be your authentic self. So, you'll be more happier, you'll feel that sense of wellbeing and belonging to that firm, and then you feel more engaged. And that is what we are finding today that our candidates and colleagues are looking for.
If we think about individuals, what can they do to prioritize their wellbeing at work, both for themselves and others? And Lucy, if we can start with you.
Thanks, Nicole. And you mentioned at work, and when we think about this now, again, given the last few years, that distinction between work and life, those lines are really blurred, because it's all becoming everything. There was a clear divide between life and work. You naturally created some boundaries through commuting. So, you would shut down your laptop, you would leave your computer at work back a few years ago when we didn't have the laptops.
But today, and even more so during the last few years, it's become so easy to not create those boundaries, so you really need to be intentional around your actions, and I think we started to really start to move into that way of thinking, and you really need to prioritize wellbeing at work, as you'll be more happier, you'll be more engaged and you'll be more productive.
And for many of us, moving into this agile working environment, whatever that may look like for you, it's so key to make sure that we are making time for ourselves, and our families, and what drives us. If it's something else, if it's through exercise, whatever, reading a book, it is so key to make sure you make that time. And this can mean, as I said, several different things for each of us, because we're all so different. For me, it's about my family and it's about exercise. That's my mechanism to release that stress and to feel more balanced in myself. Going out for a run, jumping on a bike, you're able to just completely forget about the world and have that time to yourself.
At Aon, we have several sort of initiatives and programs, but I just want to call out a few that I find more impactful for myself. Recently we, earlier this year, we introduced something around Living Our Values awards, and this is around gratitude and recognition, because we know as an individual, if you feel valued, you're going to feel happier. And this is an opportunity for us to recognize outstanding colleagues who have shaped decisions for the better by living our Aon united values. So thinking across the organization in every way and in every day, and going above and beyond.
And the great thing about this is, after a 12-month period, those top 100 are then invited to a really prestigious event, but it's all about relaxation and inspiration. And you get to take somebody with you as well, and hopefully it's to a warm destination. And there's other things that we do around Aon Stars. Those are small things, like happy anniversary, happy birthday, just saying thank you. The impact that you can have from a small message for someone in your team, or for someone that you've worked with is huge.
Another thing, I'd have to link it back to exercise, because that's one of my key drivers, is around global walk. Through May and June, we have been running these throughout the globe, and it's a way for colleagues to connect across the world and talk about wellbeing topics but being active. You're making a conscious decision to step away from your desk and walk and take in that fresh air.
And then finally, the global wellbeing days. We introduced these during the pandemic, and these were one or two days taken throughout the year, and they were global holidays. And the piece I want to emphasize is, they weren't just holidays. They were days when the entire organization shut down. So that feeling of that night before, when you were logging onto your emails, you didn't have that fear, because everybody was off. So, you could come back in that next day, and your inbox would look slightly less cluttered. It was an opportunity for all of us to switch off, and we've continued to do that. We've got one coming up in September, which I know as a firm, we'll all be looking forward to.
I know I always look forward to them, specifically because I love that nobody bothers me on that day, so it's really great. And Rachel, do you have anything that you wanted to add, based on your work internally and externally with clients?
I mean, I think Lucy's done an amazing job describing that, and it also sounds like she's living the walk, walking and talking for this podcast as we're going, so it's absolutely perfect segue into a couple of reflections, the first of which is the concept of seasonality.
We all talked before this call. There's a couple of all of us that might be going into a new school or nursery era. Maybe there's someone else starting, in your ecosystem, a new job or something else, but things change, and things are constantly evolving. And with that, we often forget to revolve our boundaries. So, how we chose to set boundaries over the summer period, versus how we might set it with the Labor Day or the new school terms, sort of identity coming into play. Many of us might be going, right, let's just get our heads down and push on through to the end of the year. Is that the right sort of sentiment to be having for ourselves? I'm really interested in how we are creating these ebbs and flows. If you could see me, my hands are kind of going up and down like a cycle, but we can't be always on at the same pace for a whole year.
And with that, also, we can think about again, the manager and the leadership role within that. So, if I'm not okay now, how is everyone else feeling? And starting to actually just open up the dialogue for everybody else. And again, each term, it doesn't have to be the school term, but each sort of season or each term, how are we now meeting our own needs to get through to the end of the year in a really positive, maybe even energized way? And what would we need to collectively do to get there?
I love that idea about opening the dialogue and checking in, because I think we're all so focused on work that we forget to share our own experiences, and maybe some of the, I don't want to say mental health challenges, but just the things that we're going through in our personal lives. Something for me to think about as a manager as well. And as we think more about employers broadly, what can we be doing to help shift the mindset around wellbeing from the top down? Lucy, what are your thoughts on that?
I think it's absolutely key that this starts at the top of the organization, and they need to be involved and help cascade down the organization. They will be absolutely instrumental in that shift in mindset. And that's where we in Aon, I think, have started to see that change, from it really coming down from the top down and then cascading, because you can see, as you go down the organization, more people getting that buy-in and really understanding the impact of wellbeing and how important it is. So, we need to think beyond just pay and the entire package.
We talked about this earlier, but again, to highlight culture, wellbeing programs, initiatives, benefits, flexibility are all equally important, and for some more than others, but these still are becoming more important for us. So, we need to think beyond that, and they need to be part of your messaging. They need to be part of your sort of brand or your proposition. Because if we aren't clear in our sort of approach around our brand, then there's a disconnect around what we're doing around wellbeing, or what do our benefits look like? And then what we'll see from then is the impact around attrition within your organizations.
One area which employees want to know about is flexibility of working. We've seen that a lot through some of the analysis that we've done within the marketplace. Here at Aon, we refer to smart working, and our approach is based on the four C's: client, coaching, collaboration, and celebrating. And this allows us to find that balance without saying to somebody, "You must do this or that." It's up to you to create that balance and work with your manager over that but do it in an inclusive way. And I think that's absolutely key to this.
It's also around creating and delivering on your diversity or inclusion commitments. Employees are really looking at companies around how do their values align with their own? So, you need to be thoughtful about your commitments. Be intentional with some of your actions that will help support your company's goals and commitments. For example, are you using things around inclusive language, so that it's really showing the personality or the feel of your company? Are you looking at things around diverse interview panels to show the diversity of your organization?
These are just some of the things that you can do around that commitment to inclusion, and also embrace things like career paths or reskilling and upskilling. We're really seeing the impact of returnship programs, where we're bringing back talent into the marketplace. This is really, really impactful, but you need to make sure that you're giving the right level of support around this, and there needs to be that sort of mindset within the organization to support those colleagues coming back into the firm.
And what's brilliant is that there isn't an internal and an external strategy going on here. They're very much part and parcel of the same thing. And there's a couple of things I want to touch on within that. One is the definition of wellbeing. Historically, we've talked about individual wellbeing, as we've touched on now, and the organizational side.
And now, we're beginning to think about, and we will add in two additional components in light of everything we've talked to. The team. What does team wellbeing mean? And leadership. What does leadership wellbeing mean? Almost as the slightly more granular conduits to enable us to get from one side of that equation to the other. And that's really important, because you can even see how that suddenly sparks different ideas into our minds as to where the territory might go. Does it then integrate into learning and development? Does it integrate into the way that we think about future leaders, future work, all of those great points.
The second thing is then, akin to what Lucy was touching on in terms of the global wellbeing day, as a business and as other businesses, how do we create a global standard that we are comfortable with? So, everyone from an inclusivity, regardless of where they live, regardless of their demographic or whatever other diversity metric we might want to add into that mix, has a common experience with us, based on our core wellbeing principles. We're going through an exercise of reviewing our employee assistance program and coming up with one global provider by way of example, to ensure that we get that commonality of experience for individuals. And that's a huge piece, in terms of lifting up to foundation of acceptability on this agenda.
The second element where... Or, sorry, the third. If I could count, that would be great. The third element that I'm then thinking about, or we are thinking about is, so we've got the foundation in place, but how do we make the great stuff we're doing already more relevant to a Lucy, to a Nicole, to a someone? So often the tendency for us, and also for our clients, is to create a calendar of events. But what happens if my grief doesn't hit the moment that the grief workshop is going on? And so, as a result, we're thinking about better understanding the human experience, orienting all of our resources, webinars, thoughtful campaigns that we're offering, and ensuring that if we're having a moment around our mental, emotional, career or even life event moment, that we can then specifically get to where we need even easier. And then from that, Lucy and I and others are going to be maturing the, how do we further into the arena of attract, retain, sustain ourselves in Aon careers?
That's really great. And what I've seen Aon do really well is this tone at the top, in terms of creating the global I and D council and the regional councils, to make sure this message is cascaded to everyone. How are you thinking about ensuring that this goes all the way down to the individual line managers, who might not be hearing it on a day-to-day basis, but who are critical to creating the sustainable environment and tailoring their approach to each of the individuals?
I think there's a couple of things. Let's just take a step back and think about the chief diversity officer role. Most organizations adopted that role three to four years ago, and some organizations no longer have them, with the premise being that we are all chief diversity officers, all campaigning. And whether we put the hypothesis out there that the same thing should happen to my role, it's a really interesting one to think through, and that's probably where, Nicole, you are thinking about. Ultimately, how do we get everybody to be a chief wellbeing officer in the Aon system? And with that, there will be some practical things, like how do we message? How do we integrate it into learning development? How do we ensure that, especially if someone is new to role, we're best supporting that? And we're definitely planning all of that through, and that was, sort of in response to your question, just because we want us to collectively own this agenda.
Thank you so much, Rachel and Lucy. This was really interesting for me personally, and I'm sure for all of our listeners. Before we sign off, I'd love to ask you another question to give our listeners a little bit more information about you. Rachel, for you, what's the last book that you read, and why was it impactful for you?
Thank you, Nicole. Well, I'm at the life stage with the two-year-old where it's an achievement to read a book, so I'm glad I got this question. I think, if you hear the title of this book, you may have heard it before, because it seems to be one of those ones that everybody is recommending to everybody at the moment, but I'm going to go for it anyway, and it's called Untamed by Glennon Doyle. And it's all about not living a “should.” And really, especially when you're starting to think about how we design our lives and making them more sustainable to enable us to be well, going inside ourselves to figure out what our boundaries need to be. So, I'm loving that book, even if it is slightly paced with the two year old in the background.
I'll have to check it out. I've been trying to release “shoulds” as well this year. And Lucy, what about you? What's your favorite thing to do when not working?
So, Nicole, I'm going to cheat here, and I'm going to do two things, so I hope this is okay. My first thing, and it's linked to a two-year -old, Rachel, but I've got a five-year-old, or a recent five-year-old. She's just had her birthday. As well as having two other older children, 12 and 10. But I think it's when I spend time with the five-year-old, and you've been at your laptop all day, and you come in and you have a conversation with her, and the world is so simple. And it just allows you to take that step back, because in her eyes, everything is just simple. I just need a snack. I need some water. Can you read this book with me? So, I think that's one of the things, that it really brings me down and grounds me.
And then, the second thing is, and I hinted at it earlier, it's the exercise. I do a lot of running. I do a lot of biking. Recently I have been on holiday, and it's coming down a hill, you're on your bike and it's going fast, and you can just feel that air, and nothing else matters. So, I think it's those two combinations that just bring you back down and go, just appreciate what you've got here, because life is simple.
This has been a conversation “On Aon” and wellbeing. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s episode, tune in in two weeks for a new episode around cybersecurity. To learn more about Aon, its colleagues, solutions and news, check out our show notes, and visit our website at Aon dot com.