Insights from our Mental Health Equity at Work Summit
At our second annual Mental Health Equity at Work Summit last week, industry leaders discussed how to foster an inclusive culture of mental well-being that allows all employees to thrive. Read on for takeaways from the event, and please share with colleagues who are also interested in improving workplace mental health. A full recording of the Summit is now available.
Insights from Mattel’s Global Head of DEI
The “Barbie” movie became a cultural juggernaut this summer, fueled in part by a strong sense of representation — children (and adults) of all identities could see themselves reflected in the story. That’s no coincidence for a company that “designs for inclusivity.”
“One of our key principles is creating a culture of belonging. And in my role, we really focus on the idea of, ‘How do we affect people, our products and our purpose?'” said the summit’s keynote speaker, Mason Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Mattel.
That sense of belonging works on two levels: getting the most out of your people and maximizing your market.
“We know that we're going to perform better, we’re going to collaborate better, we’re going to innovate and we’re going to execute better when people feel that they can be their true selves,” Williams said.
“We believe if you have a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture, it’s going to yield a more aligned focus on your consumers and your employees. We’re going to get to attract and retain and develop the best talent and we're going to be able to be more creative and unlock that potential,” Williams said.
“Representation is important because the goal is to create the best toys on earth for everyone.”
Putting Mattel’s Insights into Action
- Check in on your teams. Williams says managers checking in on the well-being of their teams boosts connection and unlocks even more of their potential. Leaders need to recognize that these check-ins should take different forms for different employees: “Meet a person where they are.”
- Treat ERGs as business partners. When Mattel created a Barbie with a prosthetic limb, the company worked with its disability-focused employee resource group as well as outside groups to be sure they were designing with people, not just for them.
- Put belonging on the agenda. Mattel’s company town halls always include a section on strengthening its culture of belonging.
Takeaways from Walmart, Accenture & More
Speakers from leading companies share recommendations for prioritizing mental health equity and improving belonging for all your workforce.
- Make financial health, physical health and belonging part of your mental health strategy. The high demand and limited capacity for professional mental health care — especially culturally competent care — means companies should think broadly about how to influence employee mental well-being. Because physical and financial health affect mental health, Accenture makes them all part of a unified approach, according to Dr. Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee, Accenture’s Chief Health Officer. Her team also works closely with the company’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) team “because that dimension of belonging is so important” to well-being.
- Listen to your people — it might lead to new business. Panelists were united in the importance of listening to your employees. It not only points companies to where to invest in employee well-being, it also creates new business opportunities. Acting on a request from an associate, Walmart launched quieter, sensory-friendly shopping hours on Saturday mornings for people with those needs. Denise Malloy, Chief Belonging Officer at Walmart, says the “Adaptive at Walmart” program won positive media attention — and an increase in sales.
- Support women to form their own “personal boards.” More than half of women experience loneliness at work. And it intensifies as women climb the corporate ladder. To support women on the way up, consider helping them form their own “personal boards.” That worked for Mary Michael, Vice President of Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management at Otsuka. Formal mentorship programs, women’s ERGs and outside networking opportunities with a focus on creating community may help your company retain women in leadership.
- Tailor support specific to new mothers. Motherhood comes with specific risks of depression and psychological stress. Dr. Eliane Boucher, Senior Director of Behavioral Science at Twill, says companies’ most effective response is generous paid maternity leave. Psychological safety is crucial, too, since many women won’t admit to the symptoms they’re experiencing, for fear of being seen as less productive or a “bad mom.” Additionally, consider offering employees apps that provide 24/7 access to mental counseling — new moms are most active online between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Focus on marginalized employees to help your entire workforce. Ebony Travis Tichenor, Director of Global Wellbeing & HR Employment Policies at Boston Scientific, says, “The reality is that DEIB initiatives do benefit everyone, regardless of your identity.” She says it shows up as reduced stress and anxiety, improved collaboration and better decision-making, because a culture of belonging is a collaborative workplace culture. Dr. Wizdom Powell, Chief Purpose Officer at Headspace, agrees: “When we do this for individuals in our organizations who are the most marginalized, everyone gets better.”
- Give your DEI strategy a budget and accountability. At many companies, “DEI” can end up standing for “dead-end initiatives,” says author, attorney and mental health advocate Natasha Bowman. To make it sustainable, approach your company’s DEIB strategy as you would with any other business initiative — with a long-term strategy, a budget and accountability measures. Malloy, of Walmart, backs this up. “We use data to drive decisions,” she says, which led the company to increase the number of no-cost counseling sessions for employees and family members from 10 per year up to 20.
Bonus Insights for Your Business
“I don’t say ‘culture fit’ because I believe that shoes fit, people don’t.” – Natasha Bowman, on creating a culture where any employee who can add value feels welcome.
“Progress over perfection. Don’t let the fear of a misstep get in the way of taking the first step.” – Elise James DeCruise, Chief Equity Officer, Ad Council