How could mental health first aiders enhance employees’ wellbeing?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Employee Engagement conference in London. That question has been in my mind since hearing Southampton FC’s HR Manager talking about the work the football cub is doing to invest in mental health training.

I’d not heard of the idea before and I wondered if it could help some of my clients, particularly coming hot on the heels of the diversity and inclusion guidelines I wrote about the other day.

This morning I was coaching a Head of Internal Communications and shared the idea with her, and we talked through her organisation’s approach to mental health and whether something along those lines could be right for them.

What I heard yesterday
So what did you miss if you didn’t make it to the Employee Engagement conference at the Cavendish Conference Centre yesterday?

I’m amazed Jenni Field of Redefining Communications and I managed to get there not only in spite of the snow, but early. Well done to our Uber driver!

Note to self: Marble floors, snow and knee-high boots are not a good combination unless you’re going for the Bambi ice-skating look…

I’m going to share what I heard with you in the form of five comments and things that made me think. Did you go? What would you add to my list?

Well done to Matt Manners and The Employee Engagement awards team for hosting the event.

It was a packed agenda with speakers from Homeserve, Plusnet, M&S, Temkin Group and many more. (Disclosure: As a judge of the EE  Awards I was invited to attend and received a complimentary ticket).

What struck me from the conversations and case studies was why employee engagement matters to help companies improve their customer service.

Most sessions drew strong comparisons and I welcome the structured approach to employee engagement and direct link to not only customer experience but financial performance.

There was also much discussion around company strategy and alignment of purpose in everything an organisation does.

I enjoyed hearing first-hand how companies are organising themselves around experiences and how different departments are working together to focus on what’s important.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Why you need to focus on employee experience
Further reading: What’s the difference between employee engagement and employee experience?

Here’s five things I heard

1) Providing clarity of messaging helps measure performance through values

Southampton FC has total clarity on what it says about itself and how it measures performance. Elliott Bryant-Jeffries, HR Manager, revealed how they ensure high performance and talent creation is not just for the football players, but all employees at the club.

They do this through having consistent messages and promoting “The Southampton Way” which is a culture designed to bring strong relationships to life. It’s underpinned by five values.

  • Its mission: We exist to turn potential into excellence
  • Vision: To be Champions League ready by 2021
  • The club has eight strategic pillars/blocks
  • Beliefs: We play the right way – we’re forward thinking – we push the boundaries – we never stop
  • Values: respect, creativity, aspiration, unity and accountability.

These are presented in a “strategic stadium” and underpin everything the club does.

I asked Elliott about the mental health first aiders and he revealed they’re working with a company called Red Umbrella. I’d not heard of them before, but if you’re interesting in knowing more, you can find them online.

2) Why teamwork matters

Jo Moran, Head of Customer Service at Marks & Spencer described their approach to engaging frontline managers as: “Ensuring our people realise they have over 4000 people on their shoulder, we are all looking out for each other. This matters greatly to ensure we have a sustainable approach to frontline engagement.”

3) The reality disconnect

“Is the culture you want close to the one you have?” challenged Ruth Dance of The Employee Engagement Alliance. It got me thinking about the companies I’ve audited over the past few years and the gaps I’ve spotted between what people say about their organisation and the reality of working there.

I’ve written about this a few times in my articles on employee experience and also mentioned it in the podcast that went live this week with Paul Sutton.

Do you have a gap?

4) Why transparency is essential

I loved hearing John Greaves, Brand Director of HomeServe, talking about their “ambitious activity” around employee engagement. I’m a fan of HomeServe and think their Big Red Sofa internal comms initiative (which has won Institute of Internal Communication awards in the past) is outstanding. They are building their brand from the inside out and this session was my highlight.

Further reading: Glassdoor reveals the best places to work 2017 plus the 2018 list.

John revealed how “incredibly transparent” they are as an organisation and how Yammer is an important part of those discussions and transparency:

5) Showcasing employees helps relevancy

The energetic Andrea Kilgour, former HR Director at Plusnet, spoke about their perks. As a relatively small company, they faced challenges to remain competitive with the rewards and benefits they offered.

With a younger, tech-savvy workforce eager to pursue career progression and opportunity, they needed to retain their people for longer than two-and-a-half years.

Andrea revealed how Plusnet tailored their internal communication content to feel relevant in its intended destination:

Andrea said: “I know if people are kept healthy, happy and have exceptional employee experience on offer, they’ll take care of customers from there. Work is a community; work is friendship; work is something to feel proud of because the work matters, and the organisation cares on a number of levels.”

“People want meaning in their everyday work” – Andrea Kilgour

Well done again to the EE Awards team.

Thank you to everyone who has got in touch this week following the news my blog has been named #3 in the Top UK PR Blogs, I’ve been touched by your positive comments and messages, thank you.

Thank you also for your comments on the podcast I recorded with Paul Sutton last week, which went live a few days ago. I enjoyed discussing the role of digital on internal communications and hearing your feedback.

I have a couple of guest posts lined up to share with you next week which I know you’ll enjoy. I also have a couple in my drafts folder I’m writing on Office 365 and communicating office moves. I’ll be finishing those in the near future.

Have a brilliant weekend and if you are still doing snow comms, do check out my guide to communicating snow comms to help navigate through the blizzard.

Thank you for stopping by,


Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 2 March 2018.

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