Employee retention: support the whole person, not just the worker

It’s safe to say that all organizations want to be successful. And for that to happen, they must be successful in attracting and retaining the best talent. But retaining employees can be hard, especially when it comes to the challenges of mental health & awareness.

Organizations must prioritize mental health and well-being if they want to succeed. A recent Gallup survey reported that 21% of workers attributed their low company engagement to their feelings about work-life balance, work schedules and their well-being. The same survey said employees who are “struggling or suffering in life, have over 2 times the amount of turnover” compared to those who are thriving personally.

So how can this be solved? Let’s start with addressing the issue itself.

Addressing the elephant in the room

It’s time to say that the topic of mental health in the workplace cannot be ignored. As stated by Jim Harter of Gallup, “two-thirds of the reasons people actually left jobs in 2021 were due to issues related to their engagement and their overall well-being.” Employers need to be conscious about how work and personal life blend, and how they support the whole person, not just the worker.

Next, reflect on how employees are communicated with each day. Start by focusing on the language used with them specifically and then go bigger with the language used within the entire workplace. This may not seem as important, but specific word choices can lead to negative emotions. For example, PR Daily discusses specific words such as “crazy” or even abbreviations like “OCD.” These words can lead to negative responses and emotions even if the intentions aren’t malicious. Remember, words are powerful. They can be interpreted in ways that leave a negative impact on an individual’s mental well-being.

Try asking, “are we building up our employees in the manner that they need?” The answer to this may be yes, but some may be hesitant to say otherwise. This could be in part due to what the Gallup study found, where a staggering 42% of people left because of how they feel about their boss and the organization’s culture.

To say this issue exists would be an understatement. And now that it’s been addressed, let’s explore a couple of avenues for a possible solution.

Working to fix the problem

Now that we know there is a problem, it’s time to start fixing it. And the best place to start is the culture itself. Creating a culture in the workplace that’s mindful of your employees’ feelings will ultimately lead to a more empathetic and caring environment. Let’s review some ways to bring that mindset into your workplace.

  • Confirm that your employees feel safe. The crucial element in mental health at work is psychological safety. Ask questions such as, “Are we micromanaging our employees? Do we have a one-size-fits-all mentality? Do we understand flaws and distress?” Identifying and addressing these issues begins the process of healthy dialogue in your workplace.
  • Conversations must incorporate compassion and active listening skills. This leads to more meaningful interactions with employees. It establishes trust and confidence while creating a safe space to communicate. When an employee comes to a meeting with a concern, listen with compassion, then try to help solve, guide, support and encourage. Be active in pausing, listening and seeking to understand their thoughts and feelings.
  • Let’s not forget about onboarding. At this stage, it’s vital a candidate knows you, as the employer, see them as an individual. Offering an abundance of training and development early in their career builds confidence and fulfillment. Mentorship by senior employees is also highly appreciated and an influential incentive to stay at a company. And never underestimate the power of work friends and genuinely getting along with the people you work with. Peer bonding and a good relationship with their manager are important components of employee retention.

And finally, there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Your most valuable business asset is the people. Promoting mental health and awareness through active listening, tools and resources is the first step toward retention.

Provide mental health & well-being resources

Now that the problem has been identified and you’re taking action to fix it, you’re done, right? Not quite.

The onus of mental health and well-being shouldn’t solely fall on the employer. Empower your employees to take control of their own mental health and well-being by arming them with tools and resources. Here are some of the ways we provide for our staff.

At Synergis, we commit to wellness in several ways. Offering an Employee Assistance Program is a great way for employees to have access to convenient mental health resources. These specific programs are available only to our internal staff, but there are also options available to you.

There are great public offerings available if you have a pre-existing health plan here in the U.S. One of these options includes Talk Space, a 24/7 Messaging app that offers in-network therapists any time support is needed. Another great alternative is the Sanvello app, which offers on-demand help with stress, anxiety and depression.

Active resources such as these allow for more than just conversations. It provides a safe space for the individual. Employees should not feel as if they are just a number among a sea of peers. Providing such resources and safe spaces for conversation can make anyone feel more valuable and better off in their mental health and well-being.

Let’s recap

Promoting employee mental health and wellness in an organization is crucial to the success of any business. It enables the employer and employee to deliver on the goals of the business and support customers. People want to feel valued, heard and recognized, regardless of their stature. Recognizing and providing for their mental health and well-being leads not only to better retention but better results for everyone.

About the author

Meredith Mulkey serves as the Human Resources Administrator at Synergis. She specializes in onboarding new hires and supporting the entire HR team. She has 8+ years of experience in hiring, mentoring, coaching and developing people to reach their business potential. Outside of work, Meredith enjoys mystery novels and hiking.

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