Capita provides stress reducing programmes to clients

26 February 2016 Consultancy.uk

In a bid to reduce workplace stress as well as improve employees well-being and productivity, companies are more and more looking at ways to combat the phenomenon. One such approach was recently announced in the partnership of Capita Employee Benefits and Connecting with People. Through the partnership, Capita will provide clients with access to Connecting with People's workplace mental health training programmes that help line managers identify stress, and trains an evidence based approach in dealing with stress.

Stress has been associated with a range of negative effects on human well-being. In the UK, stressed employees has become a more pressing phenomenon, with the effect not merely devastating to peoples’ health, but also to the productivity of companies. Dealing with stress, by means of improved pay, reduced surveillance and other measures to reduce stressors, benefits not only the employees but also the employer. In recent years, the dangers of stress and the need to address the  problem has become more prominent, leading to the development of a range of services aimed at reducing employee stress.

Stress at work

Connecting with People, founded in 2010, is a not-for-profit company and is the trading name of the Open Minds Alliance Community Interest Company – whose original training dates back to 1993. The company provides an organisational response to mental health conditions; including those leading to suicide and self-harm, and works closely with the NHS, service users and the third sector.

In a move to improve mental health awareness in the workplace, Connecting with People has entered into a strategic partnership with Capita Employee Benefits in order to improve efforts in stress management. Capita Employee Benefits is a UK based employee benefits consultancy formed in 2012, and employs over 2,400 members of staff across 13 UK offices.

The partnership will provide clients of Capita Employee Benefits access to training courses by Connecting with People as part of organisational audits. The courses have had a proven impact on reducing sickness and absence, as well as improving productivity of client employees. As Connecting with People provides professionals with training in a range of evidence based clinical tools, it aids line managers to identify early warning signs of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace. These trainings follow a modular method designed to build knowledge, skills and compassion based on input from healthcare practitioners, academics and senior business leaders. The workplace training programme itself is between two and four hours in length and provides employees with a toolkit to better understand the stigmas and myths associated with wellbeing.

Gavin Peake-Jones and Alistair Dornan

Alistair Dornan, Head of health management at Capita Employee Benefits remarks that: “Getting mental health right needn’t be difficult. Our focus is to help clients to develop three areas: the employer, the employee and the physical environment. Workplace absence for mental ill health has seen an increase in recent years, despite an overall decline in absence in the workplace for other illnesses. Our own research has found that 75% of UK employees have felt stressed at work in the last 12 months and 45% know a colleague who has given up work due to stress.”

Gavin Peake-Jones, Chief Executive of Connecting with People, says: “Connecting with People trainers have first-hand experience of managing emotional wellbeing in high pressure organisations. This gives them credibility with the people they are training. Our team has senior management experience and have been hand-picked from a range of industry sectors.”

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.