Mind the gap: Creating seamless mental health support as an employer
By Jackie Grisdale
Mental health has never been more important to young people. In our Future Talent research earlier this year, nearly two fifths of young people said it was a top issue of concern for them, second only to racism.
Thankfully, the conversation about taking care of mental health had already become prominent amongst young people – but it's no surprise that the awareness and importance of mental health has risen even higher, given the impact of this year.
The facts speak for themselves
- Recent global research from international medical insurance provider, Aetna, found that 77% of 18-24 year olds reported that rising levels of anxiety over the threat of furlough, pay cuts and redundancy had negatively impacted performance, compared to just over half of over 55s.
- Another survey, from the ONS, has sadly reported that nearly one in five people suffered depression in June – nearly double the amount of those experiencing depression in the nine months leading up to March.
- Our research echoed these feelings amongst those about to leave school and college too, with many students stating they felt anxious (57%), nervous (57%) and even scared (19%) about their future. These feelings are understandable when the ISE reports seeing the biggest fall in graduate opportunities for a decade.
It could be argued that organisations have a moral responsibility to support young people – by reassuring them that there are still jobs, apprenticeships and graduate schemes out there, by providing those opportunities, and by giving them the confidence to apply. Yes, it will be competitive. Yes, application volumes are rising. But we need to show that top employers are not closed for business. Instead, they understand the importance of emerging talent and are working hard to protect that.
We appreciate that complete altruism may be idealistic. But with Deloitte recently reporting that poor mental health costs employers up to £45 billion a year, it makes the business case for change very clear.
How to make things better
Could you talk about mental health more?
It’s an issue of real concern to young people, so consider how you’re communicating about it as a potential employer. Don’t be tokenistic. A few social posts during Mental Health Awareness Week isn’t enough. Employers need to build a more consistent narrative around mental health and wellbeing. Could you better showcase your support for employees through your events, content and communications? Could you enable them to develop skills that may improve their mental health – from building resilience to managing stress?
Are you adding to the anxiety?
Applicants are often fairly anxious and stressed at the point of application. Consider the experience you’re really giving your candidates and the impact it may have on them. Could you make the process less stressful? We all know how frustrating it is to be kept waiting, or how nerve-racking it can be doing something for the first time. Are you managing expectations about when candidates will hear from you in the best way? Are you providing enough access to information? Are you reassuring people about the availability of opportunity? Are you offering support to underrepresented groups, who may be experiencing even higher levels of anxiety?
Are you supporting new joiners well enough?
The transition from education to the workplace is challenging enough for young people. But doing it remotely will have its impact. With less face-to-face engagement, it’s even more important to consider the approach you take with new recruits – especially minority groups who’ve faced more challenges than most even getting to this stage. How can you best build connections in a virtual way to help them feel welcomed? Are you able to offer virtual networks, mentoring/buddy initiatives, or project groups to help build networks? Are you giving them enough confidence and guidance about who to go to for support? Would icebreaking virtual events help build those informal networks that employees can leverage for support when they may not want to speak directly to their manager?
Are you paying lip service to mental health?
Are your stakeholders fully, genuinely on board? Has the stigma really gone within your organisation? Is there more internally that needs to be done? Young people are getting better at talking about the issue, but there’s still a long way to go, as many employees still don’t feel comfortable raising the issue with their employers. Ask yourself honestly, is there anything more you can do?
There are lots of ways that you can make a change when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. There are also some fantastic initiatives and best practice examples out there. But we’d love to see even more being done to tackle the stigma, and support people to find and be successful in their future careers. As always, if you’d like to chat to us about how we can support you in changing futures for the better, then please get in touch.