On Episode 76 of The Talent & Growth Podcast we were joined by Kel Hartman, an amazing chief people officer who’s got an incredible story and plenty of experience, and most importantly, she’s passionate about looking after the people in your business and she’s got some great ideas around how to do that. We asked Kel about how to promote the wellness of people in our businesses. 

We’ve seen a lot of news around a recession being touted, so the power seems to be shifting into the hands of the companies rather than the candidates. It’s very different from last year when companies were pandering to people because there was a lack of talent. With that in mind, do you see the emphasis on staff’s wellbeing taking a backseat?

I think it will, and these things are worrying employees, people are worrying now for their finances and asking if they can provide for their family. That has an impact on mental health, because there’s stress, there’s anxiety, they can’t sleep, can’t eat. I think with wellbeing, whether it’s financial, physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, they all tie in together. People are being let go, and are those companies giving them psychological support? Are they helping them with their CVs? I see a lot of CEOs making this crisis about them and not their people, it’s really crazy. This is the time where they could show the employees what type of organisation they are. How are they taking care of the people that are let go, and the people who have stayed there that will feel so guilty with remaining there, because surviving a recession has a psychological impact on people.

You have a wellness programme at Chipper Cash, could you tell us a bit more about what you created there and how it worked and how it looked?

Sure. They didn’t have a wellness programme at all before I arrived. They’d put together a proposal but it mainly focussed on budgets, it wasn’t about mental health. I really wanted the programme to be holistic, and it really changed things. For a lot of employees, like those that were dealing with work stress there was a lot of burnout. In a scale up company, there was a lot of personal stuff that was going on to people who were just coming out of COVID. There was loneliness – I think that’s a big factor – and there was a lack of connections. 

One of the first things they did is listen. I was speaking to a lot of people, just checking in, getting to know people from wherever. One of the first things I wanted to address was stress and burnout, so we had a session with a psychologist, Dr. Babb and she ran a session on stress and burnout. People were just ‘like, wow, this is incredible’. Then there was one that they wanted on having a positive mindset, where we had around 80 to 90% of attendance for the whole company, including all our senior execs. We bought Composure Psychology in and African psychologists too, because we needed to reflect our people. That was one holistic fit, so then we started running monthly workshops, where we had breath work, then Angie Cole running our male mental health programme, we had Emily Paolo who was incredible in creating within your power for women. We looked at all the different spectrums. We had the parenting programme as well, which was incredible when we did that. So the parenting programme had three cohorts, as well, so there were different programmes going on simultaneously. But you know, not everyone’s a parent, not everyone’s a male or identifies with them so we had different communities come up. We didn’t have a pride community, but now we do. We ran committed connection workshops, just for people to connect. As you can tell there were so many different elements of the programme. We had a budget for working at home stipends, that was a new one, we gave equity to all sorts of organisations. We ran a bazaar to do a boxing session with the employee. There were so many different elements that people could pick and choose from, so we had a very high percentage of take up in our programme.

What advice would you give to businesses who want to start to create a culture that allows their staff to bring their whole selves to work? 

Go out and speak to your people and really, truly listen and be vulnerable. Share something about yourself to make sure that you’re creating a safe space, because when you ask for help you share some of your stories. I think that is the best way. It’s a start if you’ve got no budget for some of this stuff as well. Another thing is making sure that everyone takes their holidays and their time out, I think that’s so important. I never used to take my holidays. I thought it was so cool, but it’s not. I’ve learned a lot and now I love my holidays. When people are on holidays, as a manager, don’t phone them and email them and slack them and message them all the time. Support people’s time off and make sure that you know that they’re having the break. People don’t think they need time off, but they do. I think flexibility is cool, too. I know some people can’t always use them to travel, they’ve got to go to appointments and things like that or have different needs. I think every individual is different, so they’re going to thrive in different ways.

What advice would you give to individuals who want to support their own well being a bit more consciously?

Set boundaries, and be really clear about what yours are. If you don’t do that (and I certainly used to be guilty of that), what happens is people just get used to it. If you just say, ‘yeah, I’ll do that’ they come to expect it, but as soon as you say no, or ‘I’m not coming to this meeting, I’m on holidays’, no one really cares. So I think really make sure that you’re setting boundaries, and doing something for yourself that relates to your well being in any way, find something that is gonna work for you. Eat properly, make sure you exercise, do neck movements everyday, get out, go on walks. I do walking meetings, so if anyone can do a walking meeting for their one on one, do that. I think getting out and moving about and not being stuck to your desk all day is really important. 

I think the boundary thing is so important. I’ve just found myself going ‘I love what I’m doing’ and just working every day. It got to the point where my brain was just ready to explode with it, so I needed to say ‘right I’m not going to do any work Sunday, I’m not going to look at anything’. You’ve got to set those boundaries with yourself as well. 

To learn more about how to promote wellness within your business, listen to the full podcast episode here.

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.