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Handprinting for employee well-being

Understanding HR’s latest tool for Net Positive Social Impact.

Human resource professionals long have been concerned with improving employee well-being, but haven’t always had the ability to reliably measure and prove the return on investment in such programs.  

But now, with increasingly sophisticated technology and improved methods for tracking social data, the concept of "handprinting" is assisting HR managers to argue their case for putting resources behind employee health and well-being efforts.  

Employee well-being has earned its seat at the table among corporate sustainability priorities, as evidence continues to mount demonstrating a strong connection between a healthy, happy workforce and a successful business. Maintaining a work environment where employees are engaged and healthy has been shown to not only mitigate financial, legal and reputational costs and risks to the company, but also helps improve worker productivity, creativity, loyalty and happiness.

It’s about showing you aren’t just trying to be less bad, but also to do more good.

Handprinting is fast becoming a measurement approach of choice for HR professionals to show Net Positive Impact (NPI) on both social and environmental factors. NPI is a designation a company can claim when the handprint (positive impacts) outweighs the footprint (negative impacts) for a particular sustainability metric. In essence, it’s about showing you aren’t just trying to be less bad, but also to do more good.

While the handprinting for NPI approach has gained traction in recent years, efforts have centered on measuring environmental impact as opposed to social impact. It’s a simple case of first tackling the low-hanging fruit, as businesses have found it more straightforward to account for metrics such as GHG emissions and water use than, say, something more abstract such as employee well-being or happiness.

As Eileen McNeely, co-director of the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in Huffington Post Impact, "Sustainability has traditionally been much more focused on the physical environment, neglecting the idea that healthy workplace practices, and healthy and engaged employees, are core to a thriving, sustainable organization." But this is changing with groups such as SHINE lighting the way.

SHINE tests the handprinting waters

SHINE works with academics, the public sector and member companies such as Abbot, Eaton and Johnson & Johnson to help the private sector make business decisions that factor in employee and environmental health. The organization, explained McNeely, is filling a much needed gap in the sustainability field, as "even fewer are looking at health holistically by offering programs and workplace cultures that improve on worker well-being (as measured by mental, social and spiritual health and life satisfaction), not just physical health." 

SHINE’s 2015 Summary Report (PDF) illustrates how its company members are trailblazing on handprinting for NPI on employee well-being, and seeing a win-win for their business and employees as a result.

Levi Strauss & Company

Levi created its Improving Worker Well-being Initiative, investing resources into financial literacy, reproductive health and gender equality programs throughout its supply chain. Not only have these efforts improved the health of workers, but suppliers have witnessed up to a 4-to-1 return on investment on markers including absenteeism and turnover reduction as well as increased productivity.

Next Jump

To guide its mission to "change the world by changing workplace culture," Next Jump designed the Human Capital Engineering Pyramid, inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It focuses on creating a workplace where employees not only have base needs of security and health met, but also where they feel engaged, are encouraged to take risks and have a sense of purpose and pride. On the health stratum, its fitness and nutrition program incentives led to 90 percent of employees committing to working out twice a week.


Owens Corning

Guided by its Net Positive Aspiration, Owens Corning outlined a comprehensive health and well-being policy that includes handprinting for social elements that foster Flourishing Employees for a Sustainable Enterprise, including a healthy, safe work environment; meaningful and supportive work; company practices that instill pride; and company investments in people. Learn more on their handprinting efforts in my 2014 interview with Owens Corning CSO Frank O’Brien Bernini.

As the case builds that employee and environmental health are not mutually exclusive issues, but instead are mutually reinforcing objectives, 2016 will see more companies jumping on the handprinting bandwagon to increase NPI on employee well-being.

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