Kiwibank found its human resources advisors were on occasions supporting its leaders to respond to staff experiencing challenges to their mental health while at work.
In some cases, by the time the cases reached HR, they had escalated, requiring disciplinary action.
“When we looked into it, it became clear our leaders didn’t have the right skills to understand what could be happening with a team member who was experiencing challenges, or they were at a loss about what to do when it presented,” says Julie Barber, Kiwibank’s Wellbeing and Safety Specialist.
This included challenges right across the mental ill-health continuum; from minor mental ill-health, up to times of significant mental distress. When Kiwibank reviewed what resources it had available to help leaders in this situation, the answer was "very little".
In response to the need across the business for mental health support resources, Kiwibank engaged an experienced group of clinical psychologists who have worked extensively with Kiwibank in the past. The psychologists worked with Kiwibank to develop a suite of tailored resources and run awareness workshops for the bank's leaders.
“They spent considerable time talking to leaders and HR advisors to understand the type of challenges they were supporting. From this they developed a comprehensive suite of resources, including overviews, cheat sheets and checklists for a range of various situations. They also included information on where to go for help and how to look after themselves in the process,” Julie says.
Although a leader’s role clearly is not to 'diagnose', Kiwibank recognised its leaders needed professionally facilitated training to get a better understanding about mental ill-health and wellbeing. They also needed the practical skills to better support people who presented with them.
Pilot workshops were run to refine the content to meet Kiwibank's needs. “The first was with our HR advisors and focused around their role as an advisor and what types of support they can give to leaders,” says Julie.
“Then we ran two other pilot workshops with team leaders from our contact centres. The workshops were very interactive with lots of role-play working through what they might do in various situations, including actual scenarios they had experienced.”
Julie says feedback following the workshops was extremely positive, that they definitely helped address the need.
"The participants felt they came away with a much better understanding of mental ill-health and wellbeing, as well as the confidence to respond to it as a leader. That included knowing how to have a conversation if they think someone is experiencing problems, if they’ve seen a change in someone’s performance, or if someone has asked for help.
“A lot of this was about how to have those conversations in a professional manner and then know what to do next – how to initiate action and get that person assistance,” she says.
With the workshop pilots completed successfully, Kiwibank is working on rolling them out to the rest of the business.
Ensuring the workshops and resources are hitting the mark is vital. Julie says leaders were asked at the start of the workshops how they viewed mental health, and again at the end to see how their perceptions had shifted.
“The psychologists will check in with them over the months following the workshops to see if that’s changed again as they use their new skills in work situations. We’ll gauge from this what impact the workshops have made.
"We will also review the number of people who have been referred to Human Resources and hope to see fewer people needing disciplinary action because leaders have pre-empted more serious situations by responding to them early.”
Having fewer people facing disciplinary action when it's not appropriate means more healthy people staying on the job. “That’s good for everyone,” says Julie. “We do have to run a business and be profitable, but we need to be ethical and support our people. If we don’t have healthy people, we don’t have a business.”
However, supporting mental wellbeing is only part the company's wider innovative wellbeing programme. The programme offers its workforce relevant and accessible wellbeing options based on what its people have told them they want and need.
It also provides extra support when another need is identified (such as mental wellbeing).