Why We Care So Much About Community Data

community data

At YMCA WorkWellwe have a clear mandate: To improve the state of workplace well-being in the communities we serve – and beyondHere’s the thing, we can’t achieve our mandate on our own. To meet our goals, we need to always have an accurate pulse on where organizations and employees in our communities need support the most. Thats why we care so much about data. And that’s why we need the help of our community members. 

To us, data is what leads to understanding. It gives us an opportunity to hear about the needs of our community members in the actual words of our community members. 

So, where do you fit in?  


Employee Insights

Our Employee Insights Assessment is a quick 3-minute pulse survey that has been designed to understand the health of an organization and the top well-being needs of its employees so that we can help identify the right initiatives that best meet those needs and support employee well-being.

Since our inception in July 2020, our team has partnered with dozens of organizations looking to create healthier workplace cultures, resulting in the collection of data from over 15,000 employees. This constant flow of data teaches us – and our partner organizations – so much. For exampleour Needs Assessment asks employees “What do you need more of to feel like you are able to be at your best at work?” 

The most common needs? Here were the top four:

  1. Communication from leadership
  2. Better mental health supports
  3. More team connection opportunities
  4. More personal recognition

After 18 months of a global pandemic and the many challenges that came with it, those needs likely don’t surprise anyone. Employees have needed clearer communication to combat uncertainty, mental health supports to combat the mental weight of the pandemic, team connection opportunities to combat isolation, and personal recognition to feel like they are still valued in their work.

This data is immensely valuable and tells us so much about the challenges that organizations and employees in our communities continue to face. It has also allowed us to create new webinars and workshops to help organizations target these challenges in the most effective ways

But, this is only one piece of our data puzzle. What about those community members working for organizations that aren’t partnering with us? Their voices matter too and that’s where our community focus comes in. 


A Community Focus

Twice a year we reach out to the Three Rivers communities (Waterloo Region, Guelph-Wellington, and Stratford-Perth) to collect well-being data. Reflecting back to our mandate, our goal is to improve the state of workplace well-being in the communities we serve – and beyond. And that means the feedback, experiences, and perspectives of every community member matters – whether they are an employee working in one of our partner organizations or not.

Every fall, we launch our YMCA WorkWell Community Well-Being Survey to our YMCA of Three Rivers communities (this years' has launched and will be open until October 4th – you can complete the online survey here). The purpose of these surveys is to gather feedback from our larger community to help our team better understand the current state of employee well-being in our regionand how it is changing over time. We believe that sharing this data back is the most important part of this process, and last fall we published our first ever Insights to Action Report, examining the state of employee well-being six months into COVID-19.

Every spring, we launch our YMCA WorkWell Special Issue Survey. The purpose of this survey is more targeted, examining a special issue that is particularly important in our communities at that time. This year, we focused on what we called The Loneliness Epidemic and how the loss of social connection during COVID-19 impacted well-being in our communities.

Why do we do it? There are three main reasons why this community feedback and data matters so much to us.


1. They provide a voice around well-being for those that might not otherwise have one

We are so lucky to be able to partner with so many incredible organizations in our communities and in that work we are able to collect feedback about the well-being needs of thousands of employees every year. However, these are also the organizations that are already engaged in the process – the organizations that have already bought into well-being enough to partner with our YMCA WorkWell team to do something about it. 

Unfortunately, we know that employee well-being continues to not be prioritized by many organizations, and we know that the data we collect from our partners is not always an accurate representation of the needs of our communities as a whole. For example, during COVID-19, approximately 37% of employees in our partner organizations have reported unhealthy well-being scores. However, data from our last Insights to Action Community Report indicated that this number was 46% in the larger community. It is differences like this that highlight why we cannot accurately speak to the needs of our communities if we only rely on feedback from employees at the organizations that have already prioritized this work. 

We hope that by collecting this feedback from our larger communities, we can capture the voices of those that are being left behind – and this is particularly important in light of the fact that those voices are often our marginalized and under-represented populations. It is our mandate to improve workplace well-being for every single community member that we can, and this means that the voice of every single community member matters. 


2. They help inspire action in local organizations

One of the most common responses we received when we’ve shared well-being data with leaders during COVID-19 is “I knew people were struggling, but I didn’t know they were struggling that much.” Community Reports grounded in community-level data can inspire more organizations to take action in two main ways.  

First, by highlighting the sheer magnitude of the challenges that employees continue to face, we hope that leaders will realize that they simply cannot sit back when it comes to employee well-being. Because here’s the reality: not caring about well-being can cost organizations in so many ways – everything from employee health, burnout, performance, and disability claims to downstream consequences such as talent retention, culture, and productivity. We hope that these reports can help to highlight the many reasons why employee well-being supports in 2021 are not a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have. 

Second, at YMCA WorkWell we care about action and we care about impact. Remember, our mandate is not simply to understand workplace well-being in our communities, but to improve it. Every Community Report provides simple actions grounded in the data that leaders can start taking today to support well-being in their organization. So often, it is the little things done well that have the biggest impact on employee well-being –  things like genuine appreciation and timely communication. There are many ways to support employees that do not require expensive initiatives and we hope that by providing some simple places to start, hesitant leaders can get the push they need. 

We care about well-being because we believe employees deserve to feel healthy at workbut also because the data backs up why it’s so important. We’re here for good and we’re here to help any time you want to learn more about the many ways that caring about well-being will improve your organization.


3. They help inspire local policy changes

Finally, community data can help inspire community action. In the same way that leaders take notice when they see persuasive organizational data, we hope that community leaders also take notice when they see persuasive community data.

We’ve already seen great examples of how our community well-being data has led to clear action at the community level. For example, earlier this year our team partnered with the Region of Waterloo, Explore Waterloo Region, Carizon, and the Counselling Collaborative of Waterloo Region to collect community-level data on the well-being of employees in the hospitality sector during COVID-19. This data was so persuasive that it led to the creation of a new 6-month dedicated well-being pilot program to provide all hospitality employees in the region with free access to mental health supports.

So, do you see what we see in data? For us it’s about getting a real-time pulse, that gives us important insights, that can drive action for improvement. More simply: Community data, to community action, to community impact. We believe that widespread community action is the key to improving workplace well-being in the communities we serve – and beyond. It starts with all of us and we hope that our community data can continue to inspire these types of policy changes right here in our own backyard. 


A Call to Action  

We have outlined why we care so much about community data. So now here’s our ask: Please complete this year’s YMCA WorkWell Community Well-Being Survey. Your voice will help us better understand the current state of workplace well-being in our communities and how it has continued to evolve during COVID-19. No matter what your work experiences have been this past year, your voice matters and we want to ensure that it is being heard.

The survey itself takes approximately 5 minutes and is completely anonymous. By completing the survey, you will also be entered into a random prize draw of a $200 The Perfect Gift Visa prepaid card or one of two $50 The Perfect Gift Visa prepaid gift cards. Not bad for five minutes of your time!

The survey will be live from September 13 to October 4 and if you have any questions about the survey or the process, please feel free to reach out to me: dave.whiteside (at) ytr.ymca.ca. Thank you for your voice and thank you for caring about the well-being of employees in our region!

Start the Survey

Posted by

Dave Whiteside

As the Director of Insights at YMCA WorkWell and with a Ph.D in Organizational Behaviour, Dave is all about the data and how it can be used to drive action and impact. Through the Employee Insights Survey and our annual WorkWell Community Surveys, his focus is on helping organizations gain a deeper understanding of where organizations, teams, and individuals are and what actions need to be taken to create healthier cultures.

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