How to build “cultural resilience” that prioritizes employees’ mental health

Employers are increasingly involved in decisions about personal and professional achievement, and not always in a positive way. The “Great Resignation” showed that millions of Americans often consider changing jobs or careers to reach their personal goals. This means that employers must re-examine the ways in which their organizations can provide the right balance between roles, work environment and culture to attract and retain employees.

With more than 10 million jobs available, employees have options — plenty of them. A primary consideration for many is the unique challenges of mitigating the risks to themselves and their family members due to the pandemic. Others struggle with mental health stress from excessive stress to anxiety and depression, and some struggle with substance abuse or other addiction challenges.

With a record 4.4 million people quitting through September 2021, it has become imperative for businesses to develop “cultural resilience” that will help promote better overall mental health. It also helps with workplace effectiveness (regardless of preparation) and prioritizes balance for employees in a world that has become unbalanced elsewhere.

Cultural resilience aims to institutionalize distinct aspects of business culture for how mental health is assessed and to understand the inextricable link between mental well-being and productivity.

Simply providing employees with a phone number to call if they have mental health issues is not enough anymore. Employers should view mental health as organic, supported by leaders, and well understood by first-tier managers who play a vital role in nurturing culture. Certainly every organization is unique, and there are different ways to build a distinct culture. However, through this diversity, some consistent approaches usually help foster an organizational culture that prioritizes the mental health of colleagues.

He listens. He listens. He listens.

“You have short ears and a long mouth.” – John Wayne

Business leaders should begin by assessing the current situation, including employees’ perceptions of leadership and organization. Leaders should conduct qualitative and quantitative evaluations to measure how employees view their role, stress level, work-life balance, etc. These assessments highlight the elements of the organization that employees communicate with and identify obvious places where well-being is affected. When done well, this effectively creates a mental health “personality” in the workplace. The main mistake, especially for experienced leaders, is the belief that they are completely “in touch” or fully familiar with the work culture. Regular evaluations, particularly when you highlight the wellbeing challenges of your teammates, serve to confirm or reinforce other points of view.

Important dimensions will likely include things like how conflict is handled, how much managers invest in their team’s success, whether their colleagues feel listened to, whether they understand the company’s strategy, or whether their work energizes them. Personalities in the workplace usually move on to perceptions of power and one question; Does it matter what I do/suggest/invest my time in? When this strength is imbalanced, team members are less effective, less reactive, more likely to feel pressure on their individual well-being, and more likely to look for somewhere else to spend their careers.

Advise to corporate personality

“Work may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Once leaders gather employee feedback, the next step is to turn those ideas into action that addresses areas of concern. There is no single answer, but there are principles that are usually effective.

First, a direct attack on outliers. Take command with clarity and urgency when there are unacceptable issues raised in the workplace. Racism, misogyny, bullying, etc., are totally unacceptable.

Second, keep it simple. Choose no more than 2-3 areas highlighted in the evaluation process to target and build real and meaningful change through tried and tested initiatives with proven results. Technology or service partners often help here as they can provide a framework that engages teammates and provides valuable resources and data for assessing progress.

Finally, communicate transparently. Share goals, share process, share initiatives. The past two years have shown his colleagues’ willingness to share their views on how to shape effective work environments. Leaders must share the same level of clarity.

Creating a more flexible work culture can take many forms. The measure may be to re-examine the employees’ labor policies to make them more flexible and accommodating. If employees want more access to mental health and wellbeing solutions, the step may be to implement digitally enabled tools to provide training and counseling services. There is no single formula, but a core desire to revitalize the company’s culture while accepting that employee health is important and reliable solutions to address it are a giant first step.

Driving with weakness

“I was always trying to resist playing the control thing. I loved showing the weakness of age.” – Clint Eastwood

Culture change cannot happen easily unless the top teams embody this change with their actions. They can help set the right tone by committing themselves to doing what employees want from their organizational culture to prioritize more. Leaders who can evaluate and share their personal journey have a greater chance of building the trust needed to effect change. The truth is that all leaders struggle at some point. Communicating this openly and honestly opens the opportunity to reshape the company’s character more quickly.

This same authenticity underpins a focus on employees’ emotional health not just as the right thing to do, but the one thing to do. It directly affects team performance in the form of increased productivity, engagement and retention. Cultural resilience is a powerful strategy for promoting a great culture or reshaping an emerging culture.

Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images

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