The star of consumer delivery company Hermes UK has been rising for some time now, and the company enjoyed its busiest month ever in December. While Hermes has not rested on its laurels in rising to meet the surge in delivery demand, neither has it been complacent in meeting the needs of its employees under the demands of life in ‘interesting times’. At the heart of a programme of health and wellbeing initiatives being introduced is the rollout of a 72 volunteer ‘mental health ambassador’ network.
Ambassadors are being trained not only in the skills required to listen to and talk with those needing support, but also to recognise behaviours that can affect wellbeing. Talent in Logistics caught up with Hermes Head of Reward and People Services Vicky Connell and ambassador Lauren Fletcher, Head of Depots – South, to find out more about the role, and ask how it aligns with Hermes’ commitments to ‘raise awareness, address the stigma of poor mental health and signpost clear information on available support and guidance.’
Vicky, what made you implement the policy?
The mental health ambassadors were implemented as part of an engagement/employee experience initiative. We actually began to investigate implementing the ambassadors before Covid struck back in early 2020, however the pandemic slowed down our implementation whilst we waited for non-face-to-face training to be available.
Did you start this initiative by asking your employer what they needed or wanted?
We have always found success in implementing programmes where we involve a cross-section of people from across the business to act as ambassadors. That is why we believed this initiative would work really well at Hermes. It is flexible, and takes on board feedback from our people to ensure it delivers what they need.
What KPI’s will you measure?
Absence: we will be looking to track the reasons for absence over time, not just the amount of absence, to enable us to better support people. Engagement: people’s perceptions of how their mental health is supported at Hermes. We will also monitor take-up and use of our tools.
How have business areas collaborated to create these wellbeing initiatives?
Ambassadors have volunteered from every area of the business… from every level, ensuring we are able to engage with all of our employees. The ambassadors will enable us to tailor our communications.
How is the initiative supported by senior leadership?
We have a number of senior managers who are trained as ambassadors. It has been fantastic to see the buy in from a senior level. We provide regular updates to our senior leadership team, who are fully on-board.
Has COVID-19 changed the initiative in anyway?
Covid has not changed our overall aim. However, we’ve had to adapt, and we’ve probably paid more attention to ensuring homeworkers are covered; previously people based in the office would have had greater access to resources.
What have the take-up numbers been like? What are you hoping to see in the longer term?
We’ve trained 43 people so from across the business, with another 48 to be trained this year. We had over 100 people put their name down to attend the training.
We’re still very much in the early stages. In the longer term we are hoping to see a change in our people’s perceptions of mental health, and to create a culture where people feel able and willing to have open and transparent conversations.
Ambassador Lauren Fletcher was one such volunteer. She had this to say: I asked to be a Mental Health Ambassador to support our operational teams in supporting our leadership focus on mental health and wellbeing, and also to champion every day conversations about mental health. In the demographic of our workforce this is still a big taboo, and I want to help debunk the notion that mental health is the new ‘bad back’… just an excuse for a day off.
Talk to me about the tools and training you are providing the ambassadors to give them the confidence to perform this important role. What does that look like?
A two-day training course is provided, accredited by Mental Health First Aid England and provided by Mates in Mind, specialists in Health and Wellbeing training for the logistics and manufacturing sectors.
This is followed with an internal induction so our ambassadors fully understand their role and remit. Each ambassador will have access to a toolkit containing full details of the services and resources available, and they can in turn share these with people in their area. Ambassadors will also attend regular internal networking events to share their experiences and best practice.
Lauren had this to say: I found the MHFA training to be informative, empowering and extremely well delivered. Despite having a close family member with a mental health condition, I learnt so much that will help me both personally and professionally: in recognising signs and in signposting people effectively to get them on a path to good mental health.