Thinking of hiring a mental health and well-being consultant? Read this.
So you have decided to take the plunge and figure out how to best service your employees overall health needs for the business. Or maybe you are just trying to boost employee morale as it appears that they are not as engaged or creative as they used to be and it is important that your businesses continues to innovate because you are not quite ready to go the way of dinosaurs. Or perhaps you are the personality type that likes to get ahead of all issues and are bringing in consultants as a preventative measure before it rains down failed sales reports confetti at your next board meeting. Regardless of why exactly you are doing it, it is the absolute right thing to do as your employees mental health is of the utmost importance and recognizing that is in essence the first step to supporting the overall emotional health of the business which is paramount to success and to employee loyalty.
Sad news: Not every consultant is going to be a good fit for your intended business vibe or culture. However, because preserving a healthy business environment is important to you, here are a few points to help you build the right relationship with a mental health consultant as any initiatives they suggest are going to need ongoing evaluation as your business evolves.
1. Roles and Responsibilities. The qualifications your chosen consultants hold will in many cases determine their approach and latitude in implementing solutions as opposed to just their knowledge and provision of said solutions. Mental health consultants cover a gamut of fields from Creative Psychotherapists to Occupational Therapists and Clinical Psychologists and Social Workers, there are a lot of them. However, they should be able to articulate how their specific skill set is appropriate for your organisations needs. This comes from the consultants display of their knowledge of your organizational structure and ethos. Are they able to recognise the nuances in your employee make up to avoid generalization or fragmentation of services? What is their approach to addressing the individual employee? The mental health consultant's role is to recognise and respond sensitively to the potential mental health and well being concerns of employees while promoting emotional intelligence growth and social cohesion within an organization. The consultants should also have a strategy for maintaining confidence and for effectively training and educating the workers and management on mental health in the workplace and the processes to be adhered to regarding it.
2. The Consultative ethos should be predicated upon evidence based practises working in partnership with management and with individual employees to celebrate and build upon the diversity of the organization. The entire consultation should be about building strong collaborative relationships and this should start with the initial relationship with the company as this will shape how they perform in their consultative duties. They should be active listeners who can reflect back on the perspectives put across by their wards and we are not talking parroting phrases back here, but proving an analytical understanding of the position in which the speaker is coming from. Strength based approaches can be utilized to motivate the workforce and the more enthusiastically they are delivered the higher the effectiveness of the approach because seriously, no one likes a bore.
3. Implementation processes. Articulation of the implementation steps is important to set a baseline for expectations and the level of involvement needed by employees. At this point, demonstration of the techniques of observation and assessment can also be relayed to determine interaction levels between the consultants and staff. Everything has to be tailor made for the specific needs of your organization. The consultant should facilitate the development of an individualized plan in partnership with you the organization and demonstrate how to effectively support staff and engage them into using intentional practises to further positive professional development. It should be expected too that the consultant collect and interpret on going information to improve the consultative process.
4. Knowledge, Risk Assessment and Screening Tools. Demonstration of knowledge regarding the potential risk factors which may impact successful relationship building within the company and with its clientele will be useful to help staff identify, interpret and administer reliable social and emotional screening tools for on going assessments of workplace mental health. This will also be helpful in measuring the preventative tools and practises related to enhancing the emotional and social well being of workers.
5. Effective strategies and interventions. It will be helpful if the consultants are trained in assessing the subconscious opinions of employees through the use of directives or activities that effectively consider the factors affecting all aspects of the mental health and well being of the business. Consultants should be able to demonstrate knowledge of strategies that foster collaborative relationships within the workplace. This is also where strategic plans are implemented to weed out the problem areas using evidence based practises for people exhibiting difficult behavioural practises. Knowledge of interventions and preventative practises for those experiencing difficult social and emotional integration in the workplace should be demonstrated.
6. Resources and Referrals. These are usually suggestions for next steps after the initial consult is completed. Resources can be presented in various forms from reports, presentation of reports, digital interactive reporting etc... The information must outline motivating expansion for reflective professional development and identification of professionals or activities that can cater for the complex diverse needs of each organization. Consultants should be able to provide engagement for intervention systems, services and referrals to the appropriate bodies that deliver them.
While this is all good information for what is required in a mental health and wellbeing consultant, here's a handy list of lessons taken from real life horror stories that indicate what your mental health consultation should NOT be:
1. A party. - I know the consultation is intended to bring hope and empowerment to a workforce that needs it and planning a rave may be one way to bring momentary group cohesion, but it has no real long term euphoric effects. I use this as an example because these things happen.
2. A gossip fest - the office informant lives on. This person (and their listening fans) knows every detail of every personal problem and sometimes every business decision happening and they are happy to share. A consultation should not be a perpetuation of this system of knowledge acquisition by relying on this information as source testament and reporting it as gospel.
3. Time off - No. Work still starts at 9 am tomorrow. Although I understand how it is sometimes difficult working normally knowing you are being watched, it needs to be business as usual for accurate assessments of your workforce, with as much of the workforce together as possible. It is not beneficial to you to have half your employees on holiday when consultants happen to be in. That's just a shady, makes-no-sense mess.
4. Group therapy - Although group activities and tools used by consultants may have a therapeutic feel to them, mental health consultancy methods are not intended to be therapy sessions regardless of the qualifications of the consultant. There is time and a place for that. This is not it.
5. A moment of silence - Literally and figuratively. Communication should be on constant flow, there should be feedback from the organization and input from the consultant and vice versa. Progress reports, focus groups and interventional activities are all to happen. Forgetting to participate or report back on exercises for actionable steps is not an option because (a) please, we all know the dog did not eat your homework, don't be unprofessional (b) refer to (a).
This list is by no means comprehensive and neither is it meant to preclude the differing creative approaches employed by mental health consultants across the board. It is intended to be a helpful guide on how to go about commencing and procuring consultancy for the mental health of your organization. Organisations are increasingly becoming more social and interactions can get frayed. It is important that relationships are maintained and emotions as well as opinions can be expressed in a safe and welcoming environment for the continued growth of the business.
Photo credit: markus spiske. All reproduction thereof is subject to copyright laws.
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