Mental health and company culture: My personal view as a recruiter
April 29, 2022
April 29, 2022
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As someone who has been part of Accenture recruiting for most of my career, I often reflect on how the world has changed since I joined.
For example—I’m unabashedly dating myself here—when I first started, email was a “new” collaboration tool. Back then, we wore suits to the office. For any company I knew, business culture demanded that work and personal life be kept very separate.
Wow, has that mindset changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has likely forever obliterated the distinction between work versus personal.
Now, more than ever, it’s so important that we feel seen and valued and able to bring our true, authentic self to work.
And we want to work somewhere where we know that we can maintain balance and ask for what we need, share what we have to offer and feel empowered to be our best—personally and professionally.
Things changed for me as a recruiter when, several years ago, I took an HR course through Accenture that embraced the notion that one of the best ways to retain people is to provide excellent, even delightful, work experiences that exceed their expectations. Thinking about employees as customers turned on a light bulb in my mind. At the same time, the world began to talk about work-life balance.
This new way of viewing experience engendered Accenture programs like Truly Human, which encouraged our leaders to model flexible behavior and support practices that provided employees with more balance. We put muscle behind the knowledge that diverse teams do better work for our clients—especially when they receive support to be themselves at work—by making our diversity goals public.
And we started talking a lot more about mental health.
When I first heard our leaders speak frankly about mental health, I felt a little alarm bell ring in my belly. Anxiety has been a part of my life since I can remember. In high school, I remember frequent stomachaches; in college, I suffered bouts of insomnia. And as an adult, I began to experience panic attacks. I tried to (quietly) power through, on my own. One day, many years ago, I realized that I didn’t feel like “me” at all. And I picked up the phone and called my doctor.
I share this because then, it wasn’t common to talk about such things at work. I now know that many people have this kind of experience. In fact, our research shows that up to 93% of workers in the UK will face a mental health challenge before they are 30. That little alarm bell I felt when we started talking about mental health in the workplace was my instinct to hide my own experience from colleagues.
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"I'm grateful that Accenture leadership has made the mental health conversation part of our culture."
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For so long, business culture has valued appearing strong and put together, without any need to ask for help. It has dictated that you don’t pry into others’ business, which would include asking them how they really are. And it also required that at work, we only reveal our personal lives through a positive, surface-only filter. Talking about mental health crossed an unseen, but widely accepted, line.
Of course, now we (and I) know better; but there are still many companies that keep that line intact. I have been grateful that Accenture leadership has made the mental health conversation part of our culture.
Acknowledging our humanity, openly caring for our teammates, allowing ourselves to set boundaries and knowing that our needs are respected—these are aspects of job satisfaction that, in some ways, seem so simple; but intentionally inviting them into our culture and behavior make all the difference in how we feel about our work and our everyday experience.
In my experience, people pursuing careers at Accenture often want to know what our culture is really like, and the best way for them to tell is through the conversations they have with our people.
There is exciting stuff about working with cutting-edge technologies and amazing clients on our website. But when I talk to candidates, I like to share those aspects of our culture that make our company truly special, such as the way we:
I tell them that we care enough about our people to focus on upskilling and boundless opportunities, so they continue to grow professionally. We have a robust Employee Resource Group community and corporate citizenship opportunities so people can build relationships within and outside Accenture and pursue the things that matter the most to them.
Our benefits support individual and family well-being, including insurance, retirement programs, generous PTO and leave opportunities and more. We have a chief health officer, which is an acknowledgment of the responsibility our leaders feel for the health of each unique Accenture employee.
And now we speak openly about and prioritize mental health. We have a global network of more than 8,900 Mental Health Allies—Accenture people who have been trained to listen compassionately and support those who may be struggling and connect them to resources that might help.
We provide tools and training to help our employees build personal resilience so they can better manage the stress that can come with change. Our Employee Assistance Program is always available for our people and their families to get support.
I can’t tell you how often a colleague has reached out here to ask how they might help with something, or to chat, even when things are busy.
Thirty years into my career, I know this: the world won’t stop changing. Challenges are replaced immediately by other challenges.
Working for a company that encourages caring for ourselves and one another, and building the resilience to weather difficulties, goes a long way to experiencing the best career available.
Be your true self and do work that’s creating real change, every day.
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