Hot button learning and development (L&D) topics come and go faster than fashion microtrends. However, the discussion surrounding employee mental health and wellness has stood the test of time and stayed top of mind for L&D departments across the country, especially after the uncertainty of the past couple of years.

With employee stress at an all-time-high, L&D leaders need to rework their wellness plans to fit today’s workers’ needs and mitigate the risk of wellness problems in the future. Here are a few steps L&D leaders can take to get started.

Lead With Empathy and Lead by Example

The separation between work and personal life has been blurred by the introduction of hybrid and remote work. That said, it’s no longer appropriate for leaders to ignore life events that have impacted their employees. At any one time, employees may be grieving the loss of a loved one, experiencing health issues or even carrying personal concerns they do not wish to fully divulge. While there is no cookie-cutter way to handle one of these sensitive situations, here’s some advice.

Primarily, L&D leaders should approach these circumstances with compassion, empathy and understanding to better support their employees. Just as important, remember that every employee is different. While some may appreciate time to speak about their feelings or need time to grieve, others will insist on going about their business to maintain normalcy. Leaders in this situation should consciously learn colleagues’ personalities and assess how they may handle such situations before they arise. Cultivating a caring, open culture allows employees to feel cared for and can help improve productivity and engagement.

Emphasize Attainable Quarterly Goals and Metrics

The impact wellness has on employees’ physical and mental health has been on the minds of L&D leaders for a while. Understanding how it impacts employees is important and can be a good marker for understanding their satisfaction at work. When an L&D department takes mental health seriously, performance is positively affected, causing continual positive effects. To gauge employee satisfaction, L&D leaders can analyze metrics that may suggest which tactics work most effectively in their workplace. At that point, the L&D department will be able to execute wellness programs that will target employees who need assistance or spot pain points that affect most employees.

A few metrics that L&D leaders can track quarterly include:

  • Employee turnover.
  • Paid time off (PTO), sick days and bereavement leave.
  • Participation in wellness programs.

To track these metrics, leaders can disseminate anonymous surveys that gauge employee satisfaction on a one to 10 scale. Providing an optional, dedicated space for employees to explain their answers can illuminate why employees feel a certain way about offered benefits. These questions will provide meaningful feedback that L&D leaders can use for continuous improvement.

Build Upon Engagement With Forums for Feedback

Some people may view feedback as negative or difficult to handle. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Feedback is critical to understanding the success of any initiative, including wellness plans. Once feedback is collected, L&D departments can better understand what employees are looking for in their workplace.

Companies looking to create a cohesive culture should take proper steps to implement wellness initiatives that include both in-office and remote workers. A few examples could be monthly yoga/meditation sessions, mental health days, PTO incentives and even a no-meetings week to help decipher which meetings are truly important.

After each wellness initiative, L&D leaders should send out a feedback form. Responses on the activity can help them gauge what employees want and can spark ideas for new activities that may be out of the box. Every company culture is different, and what may bring positive feedback at one company could be the exact opposite at another. Creating consistency in surveys and utilizing the results can be essential to building a positive culture of wellness.

The road to identifying the most positive wellness plan of action at your company will not be a short one. There will be a few directional changes and road closures, but at the end of the day, once L&D leaders find their stride, it’s an open highway of opportunities.