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Playing Jenga with Employee Wellbeing

Playing Jenga with Employee Wellbeing

Playing Jenga with Employee Wellbeing (and our promise)

Are you a fan of Jenga? This classic game starts with a tower constructed from identical wooden blocks, and players take turns removing these blocks until the tower inevitably tumbles. A recent column by Seth Godin discussed the peril of businesses engaging in a similar activity, which got me pondering the realm of employee wellbeing. 

Back in 2007, when Catalyst first ventured into offering health and wellness coaching, the concept was relatively novel. If an employer or consultant sought to incorporate coaching to support employees, we were among the few organizations focusing on this aspect. As time passed, research findings, engagement levels, and employer experiences began to reveal the tangible value of coaching. Consequently, almost every health and wellness provider began to include “coaching” as part of their services. 

However, this is where the Jenga analogy comes into play. Acquisitions, mergers, and outside investors saw opportunities to remove blocks (costs) at each turn. In the process, the concept of “coaching” expanded to include brief 5-minute interactions, text messaging, scripted calls, and more – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, “and less.” Let’s turn to Seth’s words once more: “The Jenga situation is contagious. Once a competitor starts doing it, there’s pressure from short-term shareholders for you to do it as well. The profits that motivated growth become the entire point, a race to the bottom with no winners.

Seth might not have been addressing coaching directly, but he adeptly captures our current situation. Coaching is now “available” through nearly every wellness provider, but it has become an afterthought. The cost of a genuine, personal interaction with a highly skilled behavior change specialist is higher than simply nudging employees to complete a series of “box-checking” exercises on an app.

We all recognize (and the data supports this) that personal connections matter more than ever. However, it’s one of the blocks in the Jenga tower that the bean-counters can remove to bolster profits while waving the latest shiny (and high-margin) object around to distract well-intentioned employers and consultants. Consequently, exceptional coaches are overburdened, striving to meet corporate requirements, and often ending up more burnt out than the clients they feel called to serve.

If you are an employer or benefits consultant integrating health and wellness coaching to enhance the lives of your employees, it’s worth taking a peek behind the curtain to assess how the Jenga tower is faring. When done effectively, coaching can be one of the most significant benefits you can provide. However, if coaching is micromanaged by the bean-counters, the tower (and the team of coaches) may be precariously hanging by a thread. As Seth reminds us: Beans aren’t the point of the organization, they’re a side effect. 

Thank you for lending an ear. Seth certainly stirred some passion in me this morning! 😊 

P.S. – Our Promise: Catalyst Coaching 360 has remained privately held without external investors since 2007, and this will continue to be the case. While we do need to pay our bills, maximizing profit margins has never been our primary focus – and never will be. Our existence is rooted in helping create lasting, meaningful change – being a catalyst for better lives. If we can come alongside you or those you serve, we would be honored by the opportunity. 

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