When Unipart, a leading logistics and manufacturing company, set about putting in place a strategic wellbeing strategy as part of its focus on employee engagement, training managers to help employees manage their pressure positively became a key part of the solution.
Deborah Astles, HR Director, Corporate Responsibility and Policy for Unipart, explains, “As a logistics company that has a proven ability to improve productivity and now specialises in helping other companies to boost productivity, we understand how important having engaged employees is.”
Most of Unipart’s wellbeing activities had been a little bit ad hoc and opportunistic, so they wanted to create a more strategic approach. The key business objectives were to reduce overall absence and make employees feel even more cared-for.
When it came to creating a wellbeing strategy, Unipart decided to appoint Validium on the strong recommendation of their private health insurance provider. Deborah explains, “We’ve got a really good relationship with our account manager who helped us to go around different sites to promote the service and now provides ongoing online newsletters and other promotional materials to keep awareness of the EAP high.”
During the first year, a good number of employees used the Validium Mental Health Support Programme (formerly EAP) for support. The trend data highlighted that the majority of calls were related to relationship issues, debt and finance, with a significant number of calls relating to sleep loss due to anxiety and stress. Going forward, Unipart wanted a higher uptake of the service, and wanted to encourage even more employees to access the Programme.
The next step was to create a working environment where managers had the skills and confidence to talk to any employees about how the service can support them and their families when they are struggling to cope.
To get a psychologically sound foundation in place, Validium were asked to create a bespoke workshop, entitled ‘Managing Pressure Positively’ for managers who already had experience of training others or delivering occupational health to attend. Each attended the workshop twice – first as a participant so that they could become familiar with the content – secondly as an observing trainer so that they could sharpen their ability to deliver the workshop to other managers themselves.
This was followed by education on how to identify the early warning signs of stress and a five step process for helping an employee affected by stress to come up with their own solution for making things better.
Managers learnt that their role was to invest time and energy to really listen to the employee, so that they could summarise the facts of the situation and empathise with the feelings the employee had displayed. Next they had to resist the temptation to jump in with their own solution, so they could instead help the employee to explore the options and support available so they could self-solve by creating an action plan of specific steps to take to improve their situation.
The workshops have been very well received by managers who feel much more able to support employees now that they know their role is to help them to access the support in place, rather than solve their problems for them.
“The programme and workshops provided by Validium, along with other wellbeing activities, have helped us to reduce overall absence by 5% and made employees feel more cared about by 0.5 points in our annual employee engagement survey. We’re now looking forward to doing a further ‘train the trainer workshop’ so we can get our trainers to start delivering the workshops part of our ongoing health & safety and management training.”
Deborah Astles, HR Director, Corporate Responsibility and Policy at Unipart