People are hurting, and they are turning to their employers for help with mental health and wellness. After more than two years of living in a pandemic with the uncertainty, financial and emotional stress, and grave losses, Human Resources leaders are looking for ways to help their employees. But how?
There is no map for deliving a mental health and wellness program. This is relatively new territory for HR leaders and employers. Yet, it is probably the most important work they are doing at the moment.
Recently, Jerry Jarvis, Vice President of Enterprise Sales at SilverCloud Health, interviewed his colleague, Luke Raymond, Head of U.S. Health Systems Strategic Business Unit at SilverCloud Health in a session at HR Exchange Network’s HR Tech Live online event. Raymond has been working in the mental health sector for 20 years, and he has a checklist on what to look for in digital mental health programs.
To start, he wants people to understand the gravity of this obligation.
“Mental health is really important,” he said. “It’s not something we should approach with any kind of cavalier attitude or just ticking a box.”
Indeed, Raymond suggested first finding a digital mental health tool that matches the organization’s goals and values. It should offer personalized customer support to ensure functionality. Finally, once HR leaders have chosen the technology to support employee wellbeing, they must follow up with a strategic plan:
HR leaders must ensure there are mechanisms to keep people accountable throughout the process of getting mental health treatment. Whether someone is simply seeking to reduce stress or facing a diagnosed mental illness, he or she should have privacy and access to resources. The workplace culture should be one that is supportive and eliminates the stigma that is often attached with getting help. HR leaders can set the tone and educate the team.
Leadership Buy In
For any program to work properly, leaders in the organization must agree to it and model the necessary behavior to ensure others follow suit. The C-suite, said Raymond, must provide the critical financial support and resources to make this mental health and wellness program a reality. In addition, he said that leaders also have the responsibility of creating a culture shift that normalizes people seeking treatment for mental health. Self-care, in general, must be seen as legitimate and even necessary. This transformation in culture happens from the top down.
HR leaders can tell C-suite executives how this works in business terms that they can understand, said Raymond.
“Your employees are your customer, and your culture is your product,” he said.
Launching a mental health program is the first step, but it is not enough. HR professionals must track success and understand the needs of employees and how they may change over time. As a result, Raymond suggested pulse checks. Communicating and surveying employees is one way to understand what is working and what might need to be tweaked. After all, these programs are only useful if people actually take advantage of them.
Raymond is insistent that companies must continuously measure the results of their mental health and wellness program to ensure they are truly helping employees. To begin, he said HR leaders should evaluate the extent to which the organization promotes mental health and determine if it is a priority. Prioritizing the mental health of employees is necessary to help people reach their full potential and produce for the company. Next, HR professionals can turn to metrics that measure characteristics like employee engagement, absenteeism, morale, etc.
“Metrics matter,” said Raymond. “They are critical to tell if we are having an impact.”