On Aon’s Better Being Series: Human Sustainability

On Aon’s Better Being Series: Human Sustainability
Aon's Better Being Podcast

07 of 07

This insight is part 07 of 07 in this Collection.

April 24, 2023 25 mins

On Aon’s Better Being Series: Human Sustainability

On Aon Podcast Hero Image

Rachel Fellowes, Aon Chief Wellbeing Officer, and Lisa Stevens, Aon Chief People Officer, discuss human sustainability and key insights into Aon’s efforts into increased resilience for both colleagues and clients.

Key Takeaways
  1. Aon experts discuss the language of resilience and what it means at Aon.
  2. Key points of Aon’s wellbeing strategy for colleagues and the HSI are highlighted in this episode.
  3. This episode describes the market response to organizational resilience.

Welcome to “On Aon,” an award-winning podcast featuring conversations between colleagues and their guests on, well, Aon. This week, in the first of a special series on resilience called Better Being, we hear from Rachel Fellowes, Aon’s Chief Wellbeing Officer, with her guest, Chief People Officer and Head of Global Human Capital Solutions at Aon, Lisa Stevens.

Rachel Fellowes:
Hello and welcome to Better Being, with me, Rachel Fellowes. I'm the Chief Wellbeing Officer here at Aon, and I'm passionate about resilience in the workplace, and in particular it's link with performance and wellbeing. Did you know that today only about 30 percent of us actually identify as resilient in the workplace? And this has a huge impact on our mental health, productivity, agility and sense of belonging. So, in this series, I'm excited to discuss what can be done about this issue with thought leaders and subject matter experts as we look towards what actions we can all take to build and support our resilience, whether that be at the individual team or organizational level, all in the modern workplace.

With me today, and here to help launch this podcast series, is Lisa Stevens, who's Aon's Chief People Officer and Head of Global Human Capital Solutions. In Lisa's role as CPO, she's responsible for 50,000 of our colleagues across the world. And as someone with vast experience in the people and HR space, I am absolutely thrilled to have you here today as our first guest on the Better Being podcast series. And I'm really looking forward to our discussion about all things workforce resilience. So Lisa, thank you so much and welcome to the show. And perhaps before we dive into the topic of workforce resilience, would you mind introducing yourself and letting the listeners know a little bit more about who you are?

Lisa Stevens:
Rachel, first of all, I just want to say what a pleasure it is to be part of the inaugural event of this podcast. And I am so looking forward to each series and hearing who you bring on and how you enlighten us as you have done so much for our firm to date. I often say to all the listeners out there that the best decision we made in 2022 as a leadership team was bringing Rachel Fellowes to Aon. So, it's an absolute honor to be with you today. And so let me just tell the listeners a little bit about me. Besides my day job, I am also a mom of three adults now, which is hard to believe. But my youngest is 18, heading off to university in a little bit. I have a 22-year-old that's graduating from university, and a 24-year-old who is in the workforce. So very busy there. Been married for over 26 years, and just really, really lucky to be in a place in the world where I get to have an amazing opportunity to be with the colleagues at Aon and our clients. And then I also have this incredible life outside with my family and friends.

And so, like everyone, I have my struggles and my children have their struggles and my family has their struggles, and we deal with them through all sorts of practices. And so Rachel, this topic is for everyone. It doesn't matter if you're a chief people officer or you're a chief risk officer, or you're a head mom of a household or dad of a household, or someone in college, but all these things that you talk about, they apply to everyone. And so, I'm really happy that we're having this conversation and that we get to have this conversation.

Rachel Fellowes:
Thank you so much, Lisa. And I was going to do sort of a fun segue. And not only are we both mums, but we're also both married to a Rob. Not the same Rob, hasten to add. So, we can kind of park that one for now. But I also love the fact you've just blown the definition of work out of the water. Work is relevant to all of us, however we choose to define our job description. And I think that was the first thing, when we started to partner together on, it's like actually this scope of wellbeing is not about life and not about work and non-work. This is life and it all comes together under one holistic manner.

And maybe we can just dive into definitions and language. Because I know sometimes we even joke, don't we, culturally across the pond things mean different things. So, could we just dive into almost how do we begin to explore the language of resilience, what it means to you? And I am going to kind of slightly contradict myself and say, actually as a leader, again, whether that be a leader in your household or in your workplace, can you explain a little bit more about the language and how it resonates with you?

Lisa Stevens:
And Rachel, I would say that you've taught me to articulate this, but for me, and I think for our colleagues and for our practice in Human Capital, it really is about personal sustainability and human sustainability. And then it's about collectively coming together with team resilience. And I wouldn't have been able to articulate that a year ago. And you've helped with that tremendously in terms of how we see things and applicable as a leader. But again, everyone has self-leadership. So, we all have an accountability, which is the other thing is, as leaders and managers, what are we doing to enable that? What tools are we providing? What data are we using? I know we're going to get into that in a little bit. But it applies to everyone. And so, I do think, as a leader, and then for my own personal life, it applies.

Rachel Fellowes:
And I love the fact you've introduced and made that distinction already. And I was almost, as I was hearing you, playing it out in my own relationships at work or at home, and just thinking about how do I better learn what technically I'm responsible for? And I think that's such a new skillset and journey for us all, isn't it? And at what point do we then need to ask for help about those that are around us and how they connect and collaborate to build our team resilience. Building on that, and we talk about it, and many organizations do in our brand around being a resilient workforce or organizational wellbeing, what does that actually mean then? So, we thought about the individual, we thought about the team, but why is there still this brilliant, from my perspective, noise around organizational resilience, and how do you think ultimately the market is responding to that?

Lisa Stevens:
And we have research on this, and certainly your team has led this for us to see that this is one of the top three issues inside of every C-suite. And again, it doesn't discriminate. This is not just a CHRO or CPO issue. This is a CEO issue at the very top of the organization to a risk issue. Rachel, I will just say last week to our listeners, Rachel and I were at a client council meeting that was all chief risk officers, and the topic of wellbeing was one of the main topics. And it kept coming up because people have become such a critical part of everything we do. Now, you and I would argue that it should have always been that way, but it's there. And so, it's fantastic for us because there's a bright light shining on it and no one can avoid it.

And so, when we think about people and we think about performance, we have to take into consideration what are we doing to create a place where people can think, feel and function their very, very best. And where the organization has that vision to perform there and make that happen through our values, through how we make things come together. And I would just say that one of the things that has always resonated with me is what you have, again, I have to give you credit because this is all you, is that it's really looking at a wellbeing maturity curve. And for organizations to really take a look and say, where are we from a foundational perspective, which is the bottom of the curve which everyone is at. There isn't any one person, there isn't any one firm, company, government that could not be in a place where you've got a foundational need to focus on wellbeing.

But then you get into, okay, so what are we going to do about it? Where are we? And then that leads to the next phase of the maturity curve around are we reacting to things the way we should be? And we all know that reacting is a good thing, but that's not where you want to be. And so, this growth for organizations is so critical. Which is what you again have been helping Aon with and have been helping our clients with, which is how do you move into that proactive phase and then mastery, right? Which is where we really want to get to, which is advancing and then really leading by example for other organizations, for your colleagues, for your colleagues' families, for your communities.

And the process of doing that is data, right? It's got to be data enriched. So, you can start with the, okay, we care about wellbeing. Again, foundational. But in order to really move up that maturity curve of wellbeing, you really have to be constantly measuring and looking at data at what are we doing to really have an impact? And then how agile are we in order to say, here's where we have to shift or change some of the things that we think we need to do.

Rachel Fellowes:
Lisa, thank you so much for sharing that and introducing the maturity curve. I'm not sure I've actually shared this bit with you, Lisa, but what I started to think about when I was contemplating, wasn't a long contemplation about whether or not to join Aon, but it was looking and trying to identify where you'd already used data to make real step changes happen. And you're one of the first organizations, or now I can say we, are one of the first organizations to actually have the CEO owning diversity, equity, inclusion, and driving that from a data perspective down the organization. And that for me was just the perfect almost coat that I could just hang onto. It just so happens I've got a new topic to ride behind. But maybe we can just go into the data piece a little bit more. And we've said it so critical to make it stickier in an organization, but can we share a little bit around our D&I story, and how we're starting almost to use some of those principles to make change happen internally?

Lisa Stevens:
So, I would just, like say many firms, we've been on a journey with how do we impact diversity and inclusion and belonging? I think the belonging piece is a really big part of this, which plays into obviously wellbeing. All of this plays into wellbeing. But we really did reach out to, I did as a client, to our Human Capital team to provide us with the right benchmarking and data, all the way down to the manager level of our 50,000 colleagues. And then placing that information in their hands. But not just placing it in their hands, then showing them how to read it, how to understand it and then, okay, what do you do about it? What are the activities and the things you need to change? Do that. And so, the process of going through that was huge.

And you said it already, but our Chief Diversity officer is Greg Case and every single other leader in our firm. We don't have one person that owns it as part of our culture, which was a big shift for us. And we were able to do that because, again, we were providing people with tools. And then after we provided the tools, we showed people how to do it and we started holding them accountable. Then we did what was logical, which is we went back to our Human Capital team and said, "Can you help us build out how we tie this to compensation?" And so, we were very strong on that.

And then our board added an inclusion and diversity subcommittee, which is one of very few I think in the world that's holding us accountable as a senior leadership team to make sure that the things that we put in practice, we're doing. And so, I would just flip the question to you of knowing that we did all that and you hung your coat on it, the things that you've been doing around the wellbeing strategy, if you want to talk a little bit about that.

Rachel Fellowes:
Yeah, I love that, Lisa. And thanks for the invitation. And you could probably hear everyone, can't you, that the bar's set pretty high. So, I had to really think hard about, firstly, to create a data-led approach to wellbeing. And firstly, I love using the car analogy, but just lifting up the bonnet and just being really honest with what data we already had in place that we started to build a strategy on.

And like many organizations actually, what we did have access to was ill being data, not wellbeing data. So, to try and identify what would work for 50,000 colleagues, I was actually looking at data that represented maybe 5 to 10 percent of people that were actually struggling. And there's an element of equity there. Is that fair? Is that right? Because actually, we want, in the spirit of a sustainable culture, to understand the needs of the whole population.

And that's where we started to bring in the Human Sustainability Index. So, this is something that we developed outside of Aon, but it was really thinking about proactively what do humans need now to thrive in the modern world? And that's not meant to be belittling anything we've done before, but it is meant to say we do really need to develop an eight-legged table because we don't know which direction another challenge is coming from. And we also all felt the reality that the speed and frequency of challenge around us is ongoing and never ending almost now.

So, Lisa, I think what's been fantastic is the permissioning from you to just say, "Yes, Rachel, align to the fact that our data set is valid but not holistic. Let's go there, but let's be really intentional as to where we want to dive deeper, whether it be our new colleagues, our high performers or what other areas of tension where actually we may be leaning on endurance-style behaviors rather than wellbeing behaviors, do we want to start to unpick?" So, I don't know if you want to add anything else, but that's really where we've then built this whole story off for Aon.

Lisa Stevens:
So, I would say the Human Sustainability Index, it's the tool, just the tools that we gave to colleagues around what they needed to understand from a benchmarking perspective.

And to me, Human Sustainability Index, and I'll just say for our listeners, I'm just going to say HSI from now on because it's easier and because we love acronyms, I know so many companies do, but that gave us that opportunity to start measuring, again, where are we moment in time? Where are we? And it would be great for you to just give the listeners a little bit more like, what is it that we're looking at?

And this is where it played into, again, a gift to individuals of what are things that I need to be doing from a personal sustainability perspective to build my resilience. And at the time when we came to you before you worked at Aon, we were in the heart of COVID, and the people organization was exhausted. We were trying to figure out, the only thing we knew is that everything was uncertain. And the opportunity for us to have that look at, okay, where are we individually and what are things that we need to be focusing on, again, from a mental, physical, emotional, again, I'll let you go through it, it was super important.

But then the other aspect of this was really the team component, and it was how are we showing up as a team and then what do we need to do to help each other so that we can help the organization, so that we can be the stewards of the organization in terms of resilience. And then I will just say, the perfect world to me, for any organization, and ours included, is where this is part of our DNA. Right now, I know we do it for all of our colleagues that we're onboarding. Again, it's a gift to them, it's an opportunity for them. It's their own personal thing. I just want to make sure that your HSI results are your results, or no one else's to see.

But we do aggregate the data, which is really powerful for us to be able to see what are the things that we need to be doing as an organization to be supporting our colleagues. But the perfect world to me is where we're doing that for all of our colleagues. And then we're giving them all tools. And we're giving them tools that I know that you're so passionate about that can really make an incredible difference. And maybe you'll give a sneak peek into what the next topic's going to be on your next podcast where you'll talk more about that. But I just want to tee you up for that, Rachel.

Rachel Fellowes:
Thank you very much, Lisa. And also, maybe the listeners don't know that one of the first times we had a one-to-one together was probably when I was technically coaching you through HSI. Maybe you knew it was part of my interview, but we can park that one for now. But maybe we can kind of scenario through that because I'm very happy to share personally how I designed my life and the things that I've learned since COVID. And maybe you can reciprocate and do the same.

But I think in an element, HSI has eight pathways or eight ways that we as humans can now be sustainable. And Lisa, you touched on a few there, physical health, mental health, emotional health, a round of applause that we're all now talking about those last two things. We weren't talking about them two years ago. But what is fascinating when you really start to unpack the data is that did you know can be just as resilient with a strong community, or with a strong sense of meaning and purpose as you can with the physical fitness.

And we've been relying culturally, in particular in certain regions of the world, on quite narrow definitions of how to create sustainable lives. So, really sort of encouraging people to create buffers by widening their skillset at the individual level is huge. And I also love what you talked to about this distinction again. Really where we've gone, not wrong, but we're at the learning stage at the organizational level in the past was we encourage the individual to do more for themselves. So, we plug in mental health first data, we'd get wellbeing champions with fantastic outcomes, business resource groups, but it's still not acknowledging what a leader, what a manager can do to create the environment or the wrapper around the individual to help them thrive. And that's really where I've been really proud of our clients and of Aon. Starting to acknowledge that those things are actually different, and as a result, what data do you need to inform that?

But maybe just dwelling on the personal one, I definitely, and this is just quite a crude example, but just before we met, my life was very much a four-legged table. So, I was super-duper fit, doing triathlons the whole time. I was quite solid in my mental health practices. I was very routined about meditation. I built the right network of amazing people around me that I could really be honest with my own emotional health. And I was still, and I am still, understanding my own hormonal cycle and how I best manage that.

But then I had a very serious injury that suddenly took that physical health pillar away, and I couldn't do any exercise for nearly two years. And that for me was a huge moment of, do you know what, I've almost put myself at risk with my life design strategy. And there are often these moments. It might be grief, it might be something else that just knock us. And then they're incredibly revealing moments about how we can step into something else. And I know we've chatted about the pub scenario in the UK, but now my number one anchor is community. And I've made conscious choices to actually move somewhere, to live in the heart of a community, because that gives me so much resilience. But Lisa, I don't know if there's anything else you want to share from your own process of HSI as well.

Lisa Stevens:
I would just say, again, and going back and hearkening on the timing of when we first interacted with each other, I had just lost my mom. And it was during COVID, and I was with her when it happened. And it was very sudden and shocking, to say the least. And I had a really good community around me. I think I had it really good in terms of physically taking care of myself. But I think what was missing for me was understanding and trying to just accept the grief piece in ways that I hadn't done before. And understanding that grief has its own timeline of when it hits you and when it doesn't, and it changes. But there was something about being able to share in ways that I hadn't done before, I think that was really powerful.

And I think it made me a better leader, quite frankly. And not because I'm not empathetic to tragedies or things that happen. Because I certainly have had my fair share, as I know many and almost all of us have. But I think it's that realizing that everyone's on a bit of a different journey in terms of where they're going with it. But the piece around being open to what do we need to do as a firm when it comes to, we do so much around life, which is fantastic. We don't do a lot around grief. And so, what do we need to do to put more support mechanisms in place for our colleagues who are all at one point in time going to go through it. And we're a phenomenal company at being there and being reactive.

But we have a huge opportunity. It's like the women's health piece for you around hormonal health. What are we doing around the holistic health of a woman? Why is it okay to talk about back pain, but then when you say the word menopause, people get uncomfortable? Similar to people not wanting to talk about mental illness before. And so, I think it just opened up this opportunity for us to be so much more comprehensive instead of breaking it down. Again two, three years ago, so comfortable everyone talking about how many steps they took and what they're doing. I mean, fabulous, wonderful. But we are so much more complex as human beings.

And at Aon, that's what we're doing. We're out there with our clients and with our colleagues trying to figure this all out together in a world where we have just so many external factors coming at us constantly. Who knows what's going to happen on the next day? But we're sitting here saying, okay, we're going to figure this out. One, we're going to help you to be personally stronger in terms of how you sustain yourself and what you need to do. Which means recognizing where we have things that we need help with. And then also how are we coming together as a team and helping each other?

Rachel Fellowes:
I love all of that. And I also know you invited me to have a sneak peek about what other things we're thinking about internally. And one of those is actually using heart rate variability or physiological data to help inform people to make different choices. So, it doesn't have to be trauma driven, it could just be new education driven, which is such a better place to be. So, Lisa, we're coming up to time now, so I'm just wondering the classic golden question, what one thing would you like to part as an idea or a nugget that could really inform or summarize the conversation from today?

Lisa Stevens:
So, I would just like to say, one, Rachel, a huge thank you to you for everything that you've done for our organization and the team that you've brought collectively to our organization to help us on this journey. And then I do just want to say to the listeners, listen into the next podcast. Rachel just hit on the HRV, the heart rate variability. But the whole thing around what we do to recover, to take care of ourselves, and then how we strain ourselves again. Lots of conversations about how we strain ourselves in terms of exercise and everything else, not nearly enough around the things that we need to do to recover. And so, I'm excited for us to talk about that tool and how it directly connects to all the things that we talked about inside the Human Sustainability Index.

Rachel Fellowes:
So, Lisa, I know you can't see my smile because this is an audio, but I promise you it's beaming from ear to ear because I'm truly grateful for you in particular being my first guest today. So, thank you for your time and for your insights.

This has been a conversation “On Aon” and Aon’s Human Sustainability Index. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you can get more insights on wellbeing in the workplace and information on future podcasts by following Rachel Fellowes on LinkedIn. To learn more about Aon, its colleagues, solutions and news, check out our show notes, and visit our website at Aon dot com.

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