Jessica Tabinor mental wellbeing
MORSON NEWS | 5 MIN READ
Morson featured in Recruiter Magazine discussing Morson's health and wellbeing initiative.
Adrian Adair, Morson Group COO, Matthew Leavis, Head of UK Training and Heather Deering Morson’s Health, Wellbeing and Engagement Partner discuss the many benefits of a personalised approach.
We are proud to share that Adrian Adair, Morson Group COO, Matthew Leavis, Head of UK Training and Heather Deering Morson’s Health, Wellbeing and Engagement Partner have been featured in Recruiter Magazine discussing Morson’s health and wellbeing initiative.
In the blog, the team discuss Morson’s commitment to mental health, the many benefits of nutrition, work-life balance and how a personalised approach leads to employee engagement and productivity.
In recent years, health & wellbeing has risen inexorably up the agenda of many recruitment companies. A healthy and happy workforce is also a more engaged and productive workforce goes the thinking, while employees and candidates increasingly see it as an important aspect of being a ‘good’ employer.
However, while such programmes, involving gym or spa membership, free fruit in the office and perhaps access to some sort of independent advice or counselling service have become more commonplace, some companies are endeavouring to take health & wellbeing to the next level.
Three years ago, engineering and technical recruiter Morson International launched MorFit, a fitness programme for staff. Morson’s COO Adrian Adair hails MorFit’s success
“in introducing some fitness into the organisation, and in showing us that we could really have an impact on staff” but says this is just the beginning. . . Determined to build a programme that was more than just for “people that were interested in fitness”, he says the company has set the ambitious goal of providing health & wellbeing “that is personalised for individual employees”.
Three years after MorFit launched, that journey is well and truly underway. Although still early days, staff can enjoy not just the use of the company’s gym in the basement of its Manchester HQ, and fitness classes, but benefit from Morson’s new much broader and all-encompassing programme. To drive its health & wellbeing agenda and to build it into a long-term strategy, the company has recently appointed its first health, wellbeing and engagement partner, Heather Deering.
Mental health is key
Mental health is a key aspect of Morson’s programme, says Matthew Leavis, Morson International’s group head of UK training:
“When you consider that one in four people will suffer from mental health issues, it’s a significant challenge,” he says. “It is something that we are particularly proactive about at the moment.”
The company used Mental Health Awareness Day in May as the catalyst to help break down the stigma of mental health, by encouraging staff to talk about their personal experiences.
“A lot of personal stories came out, and people came out and said how supported they felt, including senior people,” says Adair.
The company also launched a network of mental health first aiders, usually mid to senior-level managers “to act as a reference point to spot some of the trigger points within their team”. The ambition is to expand the number of mental health first aiders to 80.
“Gone are the days when you just asked ‘How are you?’, because most people won’t really answer that question. We work in quite a stressful environment, so I think it is really important for line managers to be able to spot signs within their staff,” explains Leavis. A typical trigger would be a change in personality, appearance or attitude to work, he says.
Unusually, Leavis says the company also allows its clients to take advantage of its growing expertise in mental health, by giving their line managers the opportunity to attend training courses for Morson’s mental health first aiders. Leavis says that one client has asked Deering and Morson’s mental health practitioner to do some work with them on mental health.
“It is available as part of our menu of services outside the normal recruitment services,” explains Adair. Taking this further, Leavis says there are plans to launch a mental health training division.
Find out more about our mental health first aider programme here.
Outside the office
In a similar vein, Morson has extended the boundaries of health & wellbeing beyond its own staff working within its own offices, by introducing a fitness programme for a number of its rail apprentices, who are deployed on clients’ sites. Leavis says the initiative was launched in response to a spike in the numbers of rail apprentices, who left during the first couple of weeks of beginning their duties.
“The youth of today are perhaps not as physically active as they used to be,” Leavis explains, “with social media, computers and online gaming, so we find that a lot of the young lads and ladies who come to our training centres are not prepared for the physical nature of the job, despite wanting to do it.” There were also concerns that this lack of preparedness for physical work risked injuries or accidents.
Working with a gym in Manchester, Leavis says the company came up with a six-week physical fitness programme that would give apprentices “some core strength and basic functional fitness to help them adapt to their roles”. Comparing their performance at the end of the six weeks using a simple test, Leavis says some apprentices tripled their score. He says the programme has also boosted apprentices’ confidence.
Partner for health
In addition to physical fitness and mental health, Heather Deering’s brief includes mental health, nutrition, work-life balance and employee engagement.
“It’s not that MorFit is going away, it’s more about taking things to the next level, and that’s where I step in,” says Deering, who while working for Morson as an internal recruiter qualified as an associate nutritionist. Supporting Deering across the Morson Group are two mental health champions.
With its emphasis on putting staff at the centre, Deering says her first task was to undertake a consultation exercise with staff, using the feedback “to determine the priorities of the programme and what the initiatives should look like”.
Deering says the feedback indicated that mental health ranked high on the staff’s agenda. Although Morson had done a lot of work on mental health in the past, she says, including training staff and publishing a white paper, the message that came back was that “the training was a little academic and theoretical, whereas they were looking for something more practical”. In addition to the mental health first aiders, one practical result is a mental health tool kit that provides advice about how to approach mental health in the workplace.
Adair recognises that in recruitment there is a risk that hard-pressed line managers in particular focus on hitting targets at the expense of the physical and mental wellbeing of staff. However, he says that the focus on health & wellbeing, which started three years ago with MorFit, has now become embedded in the business. “Line managers are encouraged to talk to their people, and it’s about the line manager understanding both the business’s needs and their team’s needs.”
Deering says what has helped line managers embrace health & wellbeing is a commitment from the top of the organisation. “I have not really encountered resistance; in fact, people are excited about it,” she says. “It’s about presenting the argument that looking after health & wellbeing makes commercial sense. If you want to attract the right people, keep them present at work, productive and here for the long term the research shows that if staff are healthy and happy, they are going to be engaged, have fewer accidents and perform better, which is all good news for your bottom line.”
Adair says the key work for him is “productivity”. “One of Heather [Deering’s] goals is to minimise sick days, so actually if you make people more healthy, they actually spend more time at work.”
Deering accepts that what she has embarked on is “a mammoth task” but she remains excited rather than daunted. “It’s about not rushing in and trying to fix everything at once because it is not a quick fix, but taking things bit by bit and by having a calendar of events each year we can cover all the different elements so as to build a long-term strategy.”