Looking after your graduate employees’ mental wellbeing

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Looking after your graduate employees’ mental wellbeing

Why is this important?

  • Mental health is important for gen z graduates. They are more savvy about it. They expect companies to have policies and initiatives that address workplace mental wellbeing.
  • The Milkround Candidate Compass Report 2019 found a third (34%) of recent graduates reported experiencing mental health issues. The UK’s average is one in four. 18% see their mental health issues as a personal barrier to achieving their dream career
  • A recent Business in the Community report shows that young people are more vulnerable to developing mental health difficulties in the workplace.
  • There is still stigma; 44% of graduates feel they could not be open about their mental health with their employer. Even in a workplace that encourages this, it seems that many graduates are reluctant.
  • Retention: If you want to keep your graduates you need to look after and develop them.

Actions to take

1. Address the stigma around mental health

This includes the stigma felt by people who have diagnosed mental health conditions. Often this is harder to own up to than temporary stress, anxiety or low mood. Create an environment where people feel safe to raise their difficulties without judgement or negative consequences, even at the interview stage. Although young people may have the language to speak about mental health, they still fear the stigma.

2. Be proactive in supporting mental well being
  • Keep up the two-way communication 
    It is essential for line managers to understand what is going on for your graduate employee. Remember it is hard to be assertive when you are young. They may be worried about when it’s OK to say no or raise issues if they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. They are still likely to be experiencing many of the difficulties they had when they first joined, such as loneliness, fear of not fitting in and financial insecurity. Ask them how they are getting on.

  • Look out for the signs and symptoms 
    It is important to get to know your employees. You can then recognise when they are starting to struggle or show signs they are being to suffer from mental ill health.

  • Address these at the earliest possible stage 
    Don’t let people carry on struggling. Find ways to check up on people’s mental health as a matter of routine so that talking about becomes easier.

  • Lead by example 
    Look after your own mental health. Take time off if you need it. Doing this will help address the stigma. Senior managers talking about their own struggles gives a powerful message that it is OK to do this and it need not hold you back in your career.

  • Train and support Line managers
    Line managers are usually the first point of contact. Ensure that line managers have the right skills and training to best support all employees, including graduates and other young people.
3. Understand and manage generational differences

What are your gen z employees expecting? What do they value? What motivates them? What is important to them? Be clear about expectations from the start. Understanding their expectations and clarifying yours is vital.

4. Continue Support after the induction/settling in period

It is important to continue the support and attention you gave to your recent graduates at the start of employment throughout their early career. It is not uncommon for young people to leave their first job after 18 months. If you have invested a lot into your recent graduates, you will want to retain them.

5. Continue providing opportunities for training and professional development

Feedback from Graduates shows that they seek and value the opportunity for professional development and are more attracted by organisations that offer this. Keeping learning is one of the 5 ways to wellbeing and plays an important role in protecting mental health. It also keeps people motivated and excited.

6. Listen to your graduates’ ideas and suggestions

Keep an open mind. With new approaches and ways of looking at the world, your gen Z graduates will have valuable insights and suggestions. They have a lot to give. Make them feel valued and appreciated.

7. Give plenty of feedback

Don’t leave your graduates in a vacuum. They will need to know how they are getting on. Make sure you give the feedback sensitively and constructively. Create a growth culture that sees mistakes as an opportunity for learning; one that values attitude and how you do something over perfect results and high performance.

8. Take steps to address perfectionism and imposter syndrome

Unhelpful perfectionism can be damaging and lead to over-working, anxiety, depression and burn-out. It can create a sense of never being good enough. Imposter syndrome is a feeling of being a fraud with the fear of being found out at any moment. Both are fuelled by shame, so it is hard for people to talk about them. Think about the messages you give. They can unconsciously perpetuate a culture of perfectionism – having to be the best in everything at all times.

9. Tackle presenteeism and leavism;

have policies in place that support people taking time off when they are not well. It is better to take a few days off and get better than wait until it develops into a crisis. Discourage leavism, where people work when they should be off. Make sure graduates feel comfortable taking breaks during the workday, for example, taking a break for lunch. Make sure that they go home on time and don’t check emails in the evenings. Model the benefits of taking breaks and holidays yourself.



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