Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Now is a good time for our professional community to raise awareness around mental health and wellness issues. When you do, you’re helping to support successful employees, workplaces, organizations and society at large.
As learning and development (L&D) professionals, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact in our workplaces. Employee training and development programs have the power to support individual growth and advancement, build and transform team culture, and lay the foundation to meet the business objectives that lead to organizational success. They can also support positive mental health.
Some organizations already have official policies in place to address mental health challenges. That’s a wonderful first step to take, and L&D can play a supportive role. Others don’t have those policies set up yet and can benefit from starting that conversation around adding the necessary measures and providing information through training programs to help support employees. In fact, mental health initiatives in the workplace are most successful when supported by learning experiences. At AllenComm, we’ve been sharing insights on how training can be used to support employees’ mental health for a while now. (You can read insights shared by our CEO here, as well as find more material on our website here and here.)
Of course, not all workplace problems may be solved by training initiatives. However, you can use learning experiences to support the mental health of your team and a positive workplace culture — even without larger mental health programs and policies in place. Read on for five recommendations to add learning experiences that support mental wellness within your organization.
5 Tips for L&D Professionals To Support Mental Health through Training Programs
- Create content that helps to connect employees to mental health resources. Does your organization already have health resources available? What about plans and policies? This may seem like the purview of human resources (HR), but L&D has a role to play. Add this information to onboarding programs, leadership training and any repository of available on-the-job resources that employees can access. Simply sharing information about available resources about how to find help when needed is a great strategy to destigmatize mental health and show official organizational support.
- Support an internal culture of upskilling and career development. We all know that a lack of autonomy, support, and pathways to earn recognition can create stress and other detriments to employees’ mental health. It follows, then, that providing learning opportunities that help employees access career development resources (and achieve greater success) can have a positive impact on employee well-being. Training initiatives that provide pathways for career development convey to employees that the company is invested in their success, give them opportunities to earn recognitions and achieve goals, and provides a sense of autonomy through choice.
- Add interpersonal skills training to improve communication and collaboration in the workplace. Research shows that new managers, on average, underperform in the first two years due to lack of leadership skills training? That can have negative consequences both for managers and their direct reports. Moreover, research has shown that not only do most new managers not get leadership skills training for almost a decade after reaching that level, but Harvard Business Review found that by then most have habituated bad habits that hold back their careers and impede the effectiveness of their teams. Instead, you can improve the effectiveness of leaders and the experience of their direct reports by providing skills training in coaching, mentorship, planning, reviews and how to give feedback.
- Make your learning collaborative to build cohesion in your team. Along those same lines, your corporate training initiatives should have collaboration built in to encourage your team to bond and create more positive workplace cultures. Social cohesion is a huge predictor of mental wellness. Poor environments can cause, uncover or worsen mental health issues. You can accomplish collaboration through instructor-led training (ILT) sessions, by building in gamification to web-based training (WBT), and by opening up opportunities for peer-to-peer sharing as well as personalized feedback from instructors and leaders.
- Provide basic mental health skills training to managers. Your managers — especially new ones — should be provided with a basic set of guidelines to help them spot potential mental health problems and cultivate the right skills to have sensitive conversations that support productive, safe mental health outcomes. Think of this as another form of CPR training. You should have at least one employee that knows what to look for and how to deal with potential problems.
As L&D professionals, what we do in employee training and development is powerful. We have the ability to make a positive impact by designing effective, engaging corporate training programs that support mental health and wellness within our workplaces.