I was watching Billions one night, and as someone with a Master’s degree in social work, I was intrigued that the financial firm hired an in-house psychologist to counsel the talent. As it turned out, these people were in-house performance coaches, who also happened to act as therapists.
This fictional example serves as a revealing metaphor of reality. Most industries, including advertising, have yet to make an employee assistance program (EAP) the norm. That’s because companies hire organizational psychologists or human resources managers to work in the best interests of the organization. HR teams are more than sincere and empathetic and work very hard to help employees feel their best emotionally. Nevertheless, talent still doesn’t have the assurance of 100% confidentiality.
What’s certain is that without an EAP in place, the current paradigm is not going to mitigate the level of unhappiness and disgruntlement among many employees. Humans want to be heard. They lose interest if there is a lack of validation and trust, and they don’t always want you to share sensitive information with other team members or even their bosses.
Health experts say around 20% of American workers have some form of mental health challenge. The National Institute of Mental Health has reported that depression is the leading cause of workplace absenteeism.
As all industries are facing heightened scrutiny regarding discrimination and harassment issues, new conflict resolution paradigms are needed to truly balance the rights of talent and the corporation. Many companies don’t know that EAPs serviced by coaches and therapists can be hired as resources for your employees. A lot of firms don’t even know the internal issues exist since employees are often uncomfortable disclosing their feelings in fear of retaliation. Employees know that while their human resources manager may be a kind and wonderful human, they are not legally bound to confidentiality except regarding health-related data, pay levels, identity theft and data breaches. Human resources are not empowered to act as a priest or lawyer.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum scenario between employer and employee. By bringing in a third-party consulting service that offers an ironclad 100% confidentiality guarantee to staffers, marketers and agencies would actually be creating a win-win. Happier employees lead to increased performance, which materially impacts the company’s profits and losses.
Many in the talent field are working tirelessly to bring positive change to current workplace cultures in terms of employee satisfaction, diversity and inclusion. Despite their best efforts, they often hit a wall with funding, which is ironic, considering talent is advertising’s most vital asset. EAPs can typically be funded by the reallocation of discretionary budgets. Whatever additional budget required is well worth the investment insofar as healthy and happy staffers positively impact profitability over the long run.
Our industry is known for the mobility of the workforce. Talent will continue to leave organizations, but how stunning would it be if, increasingly, they left for the right reasons like an opportunity to advance their careers and not out of frustration, fear or anger? Those who do stay would be happier and more fulfilled as levels of employee malaise and depression would drop and more conflicts would be resolved to both parties’ satisfaction.
By creating a new construct, we can truly make it easier for both employees and employers to step up as partners to help talent feel like their best selves. Why lose some of the best employees because you didn’t even know something was happening? While you may not be privy to the conversations, you will see changes in both behavior and performance. Trusting the process is the key.
These are humans, not just assets. Support and empathy are important to their well-being.