After months of stress and uncertainty, the management cohort also needs to be supported. Here are three best practices to bolster their mental health.
By Missy Plohr-Memming
Amid The Great Resignation, the stakes have never been higher for HR professionals. Now tasked with revamping their organizations’ benefit programs to ensure employees’ shifting needs are met, HR teams are working to combat higher-than-normal attrition rates. To bolster retention among employees, HR professionals should consider turning their attention to the mental health of the culture carriers and backbones of their organizations: managers.
According to MetLife’s Caught in the Middle: Managers in the Wake of COVID-19 survey, managers are struggling more than other employees to shoulder the burden of their ever-increasing responsibilities. About one in three (30%) report having trouble with stress, burnout, and lower mental health.
At the same time, managers are considered essential to the well-being of their team members now more than ever. For example, 58% of managers say they’re currently implementing well-being initiatives for their organization, including holding regular one-on-one meetings, offering anonymous well-being forums, and more. This may be one reason why more than half of employees (55%) say their manager is the person they trust most at their organization.
HR professionals need to consider that within the context of The Great Resignation, improving manager mental health is not a nice-to-have retention initiative, but a need to have. The following three practices can make a big difference when it comes to manager mental health.
1. Communicate with managers about benefits that can support them. The first step to supporting the improvement of managers’ mental health is to open lines of communication. HR professionals should know that compared to non-managers, managers are significantly more likely to think their employer does not offer resources to support their mental health (38% versus 31%). This suggests that managers feel less seen and supported by upper management, despite the added toll that their roles take on their well-being.
While HR leaders should communicate the range of benefits available to managers to help them support their direct reports’ mental health, they should also emphasize the importance of managers utilizing these programs themselves. This can include benefits that support mental health directly—like mental health programs and employee assistance programs—as well as those that indirectly impact mental health. For example, financial wellness services, legal services, and pet insurance might not be traditionally considered mental health benefits, but they can help alleviate financial stress, and in turn, positively impact managers’ health overall.
2. Offer training and tools to boost confidence and capability. Managers are often tasked with ensuring their team members are feeling supported. However, many feel unprepared to handle the delicate intricacies of management. In fact, 29% of managers report struggling with spotting signs of stress, burnout, or lower mental health among employees. This might be why nearly half (46%) of managers say they only want to talk about work-related matters with their reports.
MetLife’s report found that three in four managers say they want management training from their employers to help them be more empathetic and inclusive in their leadership. The role of HR professionals in this scenario is twofold: While they should know that offering these trainings can empower managers to succeed, they should also keep in mind that managers might not feel as if they have the bandwidth to participate. HR professionals can address this dilemma by assisting managers in reprioritizing their workloads, meetings, and other obligations to free up more of their time to attend trainings.
3. Understand that certain generations are struggling more than others. While MetLife’s report found that overarchingly, all managers’ mental health can benefit from the support of their employer and HR professionals, certain cohorts of managers reported feeling more overwhelmed by their current roles than others. Indeed, millennial managers are more likely to say they are burned out (42%) than managers of any other generation (34% Gen Z, 27% Gen X, and 21% boomers comparatively) and individual contributors (30%).
HR leaders who are looking to address the needs of this generation, specifically, should consider that millennial managers and executives are more likely than other generations to want training in key areas, including people management (82%), managing personal stress (78%), conducting conversations around sensitive topics such as diversity and inclusion (D&I) and social justice (74%), and management of hybrid remote/onsite teams (74%). By remaining conscious that managers’ needs vary by generation, HR professionals can work smarter—not harder—and cater to each individual on a case-to-case basis.
HR executives should consider that managers, the “squeezed middle” between upper management and direct reports, need their specialized support to feel mentally healthy and to meet the needs of their team members. By focusing on communicating to managers the benefits that will help to address their mental and holistic health, HR leaders will be one step closer to addressing the root of The Great Resignation, rather than simply treating the symptoms.
Missy Plohr-Memming is senior vice president of group benefits for MetLife.