HR: Helping leaders to be agents of change

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For many of us, the roll call of issues to worry about keeps growing. We’ve witnessed the start of a war in Europe, the death of a Queen, a fallen UK Prime Minister and the beginnings of a cost of living crisis – hot on the heels of a global pandemic. 

The impact on all of us is as individual as we all are – but we are all affected to a greater or lesser extent. Even before the true impacts of the economic situation hit hardest, two in three workers are stressed or anxious because of their financial situation.

Is the current pace of change impacting your employees. You can find out more in Kooth’s “Next level leadership for managing change” guide.

Relentless change

Many commentators are talking about change as the “new normal”, a phrase recently describing life with Covid, but seeming to have a far broader significance today.

What does this mean for organisations battling to weather the storm – and how can HR teams apply their knowledge and insight to ensure businesses and organisations adapt and succeed?

Workforce trauma and burnout

The issue of burnout and trauma in the workforce is well-known, especially in key worker industries. A staggering four in five UK employees have experienced burnout, and 35% are reporting extreme levels, according to a recent report.

Rates of absenteeism and presenteeism are persistently high, while the ‘great resignation’ continues, with evidence pointing to a lack of mental health support being a contributing factor in decisions to leave. In fact, 50% of people in 2021 left a workplace for mental health reasons including overwhelming or unsustainable work. With energy prices rising, job security will undoubtedly take a battering, impacting many.

Despite increased awareness around employee mental health and the increased efforts of many organisations to integrate wellbeing into conversations, the shame and stigma associated with asking for help persists. Between 37 and 52% of employees would still avoid asking for help due to stigma, according to research from Mckinsey.

“There’s enormous pressure for employees to be there to support others through tough times such as Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis. In key worker and advisory positions, there is more stigma around mental health and a reluctance to come forward. It’s harder to ask for help when you’re meant to be the one giving it.”

Paul Day, senior support officer at Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (caba). 

With all these issues at play, it is perhaps unsurprising that traditional mental health services are seeing crushing unmet demand for support. 

A new breed of leader

Amid all this turbulence has emerged a realisation that workplaces themselves need to shift. HR professionals know they need leaders to be the agents of that change. 

Leaders will have a key role in driving forward a new work culture which is more aligned to our changing times and more cognisant of a wounded workforce. 

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In the latest guide from Kooth Work, we look at the critical issue of next level leadership in managing change. We look at the importance of role modelling, what it means to be “human centred”, and the different styles of leadership needed in a changed and changing environment.

Of course, this can mean flexible and hybrid working models, but it’s also broader than that. It’s about having the right leaders in place who can put people and their mental health front and centre. 

HR support

Perhaps more than most, HR professionals can see the need to steer their culture forward as the world of work continues to evolve.

According to renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel: “The “next normal” at work is about balancing productivity and compassion, valuing outcome over hours and embracing adaptive challenges as opportunities for innovation.”

Being able to bring about a cultural shift like this isn’t something that happens overnight. As we say in this report, change can be really difficult for all sorts of neurobiological, psychological and social reasons. 

It is precisely because of this that we see a huge role for HR teams in helping develop a new kind of leader, one that promotes and embodies a psychologically safe workplace, and has the tools to be able to provide the necessary employee mental health support – so that we can all thrive amid the change. 

“With so much change, businesses and organisations more than ever need leaders who see beyond a simple list of tasks or key performance indicators. HR teams should be focusing on leaders, supporting them to truly know their teams and to offer help, directly or through an appropriate service. Only then can they get the best from people. This is so important now as workforces have experienced so much change; so much stress and upheaval.” Angela Kravets, chief people officer, Kooth.

Download our free guide ‘Next level leadership for managing change’, where you’ll find expert insights around the urgent need to nurture and equip leaders to support a wounded workforce. 

Find out more about Kooth Work.

About the author:

Dr Lynne Green is the Chief Clinical Officer at Kooth Work, a digital mental wellbeing solution for medium and large sized organisations. Dr. Green has an extensive clinical background, including being a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with 20 years’ NHS experience. With Kooth Work, employees can access safe and anonymous support with live 1:1 chats with professionals, extensive self-help resources and community support. Businesses can benefit from aggregated reports and insights that will help maintain a happier and more productive workforce.



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