Dr. Ollie Malone, VP of HR at Dallas Fort Worth Airport: the Impact of Leaders Sharing Personal Stories of Mental Health Challenges

Ollie Malone3

Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport in Texas, USA is the fourth busiest airport in the world serving on average 73 million customers per year. Dr. Ollie Malone is VP of Human Resources for DFW, responsible for its 60,000 workers.

In a year when many HR leaders are getting up to speed on addressing mental health and wellbeing of their staff in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Malone is ahead of the pack. In fact in 2020, arguably the most challenging year most HR leaders have ever faced, DFW under Malone’s leadership has won the coveted Mental Health America Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health Certification at Platinum level.

We are proud to announce that Dr. Malone will be speaking at Make a Difference (digital) Summit in association with Mind Share Partners on October 15th. In this interview Malone shares a glimpse of DFW’s award-winning wellbeing program which he’ll be describing in more depth at the conference.

What does supporting staff mental health and wellbeing mean to you in your role as VP of HR for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport?

It means providing resources, scheduling support, and leadership support for those individuals needing mental health support.

It also means de-stigmatizing this need as an aberration instead of a challenge that may face all of us at one time or another.

It also means, as a leader, openly discussing mental health challenges that I’ve faced and how I went about addressing those challenges as a model for others to do the same.

How long has DFW Airport had a support program for staff mental health in place? Were you involved in initiating this program at the airport?

There are two answers to this question:

One – we have long had mental health support counseling available to all of our employees as covered through the employee benefits program.

Two – we recently initiated a program that includes employees who may not be covered under our company benefits but who, nevertheless, are available for mental health support through this benefit which is separate from our other health benefits.

What would you say has been the most effective aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing program?

I would say it has been the fact that the program was launched with a very open and honest discussion of the topic with our senior leaders.

Our CEO modeled the effective addressing of these challenges by openly discussing some of the issues that he has faced with members of his family.  The straightforward, level-headed, and compassionate way in which he spoke about this topic set the pace for others’ conversations.

Since COVID-19 what has been the most effective aspect?

The fact that we have continually reinforced the availability of these mental health and wellbeing services in all employee communication.

We are in the process of releasing videos where employees speak about their personal journeys during the coronavirus:  dealing with their own illness, the illness of friends and relative, and the need to balance many areas of their lives as a result of the virus.

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In those videos, some employees speak about having called upon the mental health services to provide additional support to themselves or members of their families.

 

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