3 Ways to Integrate Mental Health Initiatives into DEI Strategies

Creating a culture of belonging and welcoming begins with embracing soft skills such as the ability to humanize team members, practice transparency, and make cultural competence a priority. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Employee well-being and mental health have figured prominently in the modern business model. In fact, 54% of employees think mental health is a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issue and 50% of employees have left their jobs for mental health reasons, according to a report by Mind Share. Partners. With a sense of belonging being so closely linked to mental health, there is no doubt that mental health issues in the workplace often result from a lack of attention to EDI. As we wrap up Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a time to reflect on and adjust current practices of DEI and mental health in the workplace, especially as 60% of employees have reported symptoms of mental health problems in the past year.

Related: Mental health issues continue as workers grapple with pandemic fallout

While the Kaiser Family Foundation notes that 83% of companies provide employee health and wellness programs, these programs often fail to uncover the link between employee wellness and IED. Creating an inclusive work culture is a critical part of business growth and employee retention and companies with strong DEI programs have been shown to be more profitable, but there is still work to be done as employers lack often the focus on employee health and well-being. Here are three ways business leaders can reassess their current DEI goals to be more inclusive of mental health.

1. Reassess what DEI means for company employees

As companies refine and adjust their DEI goals to keep up with changing times, companies can lead with empathy by ensuring these goals reflect unique employee priorities, which often include mental health. Research from Mind Share Partners found that 91% of workers believe a company’s culture should support mental health, up from 86% in 2019. The pandemic has been a catalyst for many employers to help find ways to support mental health. ‘Provide resources through current DEI initiatives to help improve retention and create a more inclusive workplace. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a way to help increase empathy and emotional awareness, and can empower employees to educate their peers.

McKinsey research found that workers who feel highly included in their organization are nearly three times more likely than their peers to feel enthusiastic and committed to their organization. Reassessing what DEI means for employees and adjusting internal initiatives accordingly to better accept and support employees is key to increasing feelings of inclusion and belonging, and thus improving mental health in the workplace. Given that 86% of HR leaders believe that company mental health resources can increase employee retention, according to SHRM, implementing internal initiatives can benefit both the individual employee and for the company.

2. Call in the experts

Research from Mind Share Partners found that 68% of millennials and 81% of working gen Zs quit their jobs due to mental health. As nearly half (45%) of employee experiences of inclusion are due to a manager’s inclusive behaviors, according to Catalyst, companies need to help managers develop the skills necessary to cultivate a comfortable workplace for all the employees. Creating a culture of belonging and welcoming begins with embracing soft skills such as the ability to humanize team members, practice transparency, and make cultural competence a priority. Additionally, implementing employee feedback on new directions, initiatives, and company changes can help managers know what elements of DEI and mental health resources are missing.

Nearly nine in 10 HR professionals (88%) believe that mental health resources can increase employee productivity, according to SHRM. While the benefits of including mental health as a DEI goal are many, HR leaders have been looking for the best ways to help employees improve while retaining top talent in the company. Leaders can outsource the help of experts outside the organization to bring new perspectives, conversations, and advice to the workplace.

Additionally, leaders can introduce educational programs for managers to build their skills in talking about DEI and mental health topics to foster a safe and comfortable workplace. Nonetheless, creating and promoting wellness initiatives shows workers that their mental health is a company priority and helps make them feel valued. This will encourage workers to stay with their company, as it will help them feel that they are valued members of the workforce and are supported regardless of their differences.

3. Support conscious DEI strategies when looking for talent

Even though current DEI strategies consider gender, race, and ethnicity, companies must ensure recruiting efforts include all potential candidates, including the 1 in 5 American adults with disabilities. mental health issues each year and the 20% of the population considered neurodivergent. . Strategies like universal design help ensure workplace decisions benefit everyone, not just the select few.

McKinsey research shows that the majority of employees agree that inclusivity is an important factor when choosing to join a company. Additionally, 39% of employees declined or decided not to pursue employment due to a perceived lack of inclusion in an organization, proving that DEI goals and strategies should be communicated early in the recruitment process. hiring.

As part of the talent acquisition process, HR managers should adjust job descriptions to be inclusive and thoughtful to show potential candidates that the company does not discriminate based on background or the identity of a candidate. Candidates may be reluctant to apply for or accept employment if a company’s DEI goals and actions are unclear. When hiring, HR managers can increase communication around emotional well-being by promoting company mental health resources. In order to demonstrate to employees and candidates that the company fosters an inclusive company culture that helps employees perform at their best at work, HR professionals need to be open and honest about resources, benefits and options available.

Finally, expanding current talent pools to include candidates with unconventional backgrounds helps celebrate employee differences and helps create a diverse and accepting culture. As the definition of DEI continues to evolve, companies and HR managers strive to stay on top of trends and employee desires. By assessing how employees define DEI, enlisting external help and improving internal communication, and promoting DEI from the outset, companies can successfully include mental health policies as part of their DEI strategy. .

Jesse Green is senior vice president of customer success at Lever.


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