The event Chair, Karen Jackson, kicked off the discussion by asking the panellists about the importance of senior level sponsorship, and whether a figurehead with ‘lived experience’ was critical to the success of changing behaviours in an organisation.
It is a commonly held belief that, without someone at the top willing to ‘declare’ their illness, any mental wellbeing strategy will flounder at early stages. Dr. Shaun Davis, Global Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability at Royal Mail Group, shared the approach of their outgoing Chief Executive, Moya Greene, and also a Royal Mail sentiment – ‘what is important to my boss, is fascinating to me’. According to Shaun, this drives an interest across the organisation in core strategic messaging that has made the overall wellbeing agenda, ‘Feeling First Class’, part of the overall way of working rather than an isolated initiative and hasn’t relied on a single senior figurehead to lead the way using their own experiences.
At Skanska, the vision is for people to go home from work feeling better about themselves than when they arrive. This might seem ambitious, but for Lucy Jones, HR Director at Renault UK & Ireland, it is completely achievable, even though it relies on work being set up in the right way and ensuring everyone knows what is expected of them. This message, led from the top, is another example where lived experience at a senior level hasn’t been needed to start conversations across the organisation.
Discussion turned to the benefits of including wellbeing measures in an engagement survey. For Judith Grant, Director of Wellbeing at Mace, not only does this place the subject high up the organisational agenda, it also offers a measurable insight into organisational feeling and can highlight hotspots or challenging areas for increased Board-level focus.
Mace recently took the fairly unusual step of a full organisational wellbeing diagnostic, run separately from the broader engagement survey, which found a strong association between higher wellbeing scores and site performance. This enabled a robust debate at Board level about ongoing investment and the importance of the wellbeing agenda to business performance and sustainability.
This activity revealed that 41% of employees would not disclose a mental health condition at work, while this was better than the figures uncovered by the Thriving at Work report. Published late 2017, significantly, it also showed that 19% wouldn’t reveal such an issue at home either, and it is to be expected that this is reflective of the population at large.