As the attention to mental health and well-being in the workplace is ever increasing, more companies are hiring professionals to head up their well-being efforts. With few road maps or even a clear definition as to what a “well-being professional” is, it can be difficult to determine the right fit for a company’s needs. These professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, can be credentialed in vastly different things, and have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. They are licensed therapists, social workers, personal coaches, nurses, mindfulness experts, and even personal fitness trainers. Each brings their own unique talents to the table. While there is a place for all of these talents within the larger framework of well-being, there are four key elements that an organization should look for when bringing on a professional to design and head a well-being program.
- Systemic understanding. A well-being professional who works within an organization–be it a financial institution, a law firm, or a non-profit–is working within a system. That system creates the company culture, structure/hierarchy, and institutional history. Those elements, in turn, have significant impact on the lived experience of those who work there. A professional’s ability to identify and properly assess how the larger system bolsters or inhibits individual well-being, increases their ability to create programming that improves not only wellness, but productivity and achievement. To make a medical parallel, a doctor can treat the symptoms of a child’s asthma attack. When she also inquires about the child’s environment, such as exposure to second-hand smoke, the doctor can assist in providing resources such as smoking cessation programs that positively impact the child and the health of the entire family. Interview Question: Describe how your work addresses individual well-being within the context of the larger company/firm system? How does your work promote or, if necessary, challenge the culture that impacts employees?
- Continuum of care. There is a parable about people standing beside a river bank when they notice someone drowning in the rushing current. They pull the person to safety only to realize that more and more people are coming down the river, struggling to stay afloat. They rescue and revive as many as they can, but some are swept away too quickly. Eventually, one rescuer realizes that they can’t keep pulling drowning people out of the water. The real solution is to go upstream, find out where people keep falling into the river, and repair the broken bridge that is causing the accidents. Understanding continuum of care means being able to provide programming and services that range from proactive and preventative tools (making sure the bridge is sturdy so people don’t fall in the river), to restorative treatment and care (pulling people out of the river when they slip in). A professional skilled in addiction recovery or physical fitness plays a vital (and even life-saving) role within a well-being framework. Such a targeted area of expertise, however, might not best serve a director’s role that requires holistic programming along the continuum of care. Interview Questions: What assessments, tools, and programs do you use that engage with employees along the continuum of their well-being? What can be offered to those already high-achieving and resilient and how is it different from what is offered to those struggling with burnout and mental health challenges?
- Knowledge of industry standards. More and more industry associations are creating standards of well-being as a guide to their member organizations. The American Bar Association’s Well-Being Pledge and Toolkit, for instance, was born out of the 2017 ABA National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has their own best practices for Promoting Employee Well-being. Some of these guidelines are just that: suggested guidelines. Others, like the ABA Pledge and Toolkit encourage law firms to become signatories to the pledge and commit to specific standards. Regardless, a well-being professional should have a deep understanding of industry standards, best practices, and strategies for not only meeting, but exceeding those standards. Interview Questions: Describe your understanding of ABA Well-being Pledge/ SHRM Well-being Guidelines/ other industry well-being standards and how your work aligns with those standards.
- Use of assessment and evaluation. You can’t repair what you don’t know is broken. Many times we know something is wrong, but the exact “what” can be harder to determine. When the water starts dripping from the kitchen ceiling, we know we have a problem. What precisely is causing that leak and getting it fixed requires a call to the plumber. A well-being professional should have a the ability to evaluate an organization’s challenges and strengths through skilled observation, interviewing and formal diagnostic assessment. Furthermore, they should have the ability to set targeted outcomes and collect data on those outcomes for evaluation. Interview Questions: What are your standards for evaluation? What are your methods for assessing both the needs of an organization and the outcomes of a well-being program? Are there formal assessment tools that you are licensed to use or have access to use?
As with any professional position within a company, there is no one-size-fits-all. Having a strong foundation in the four key areas above ensures that the professional you hire has a firm footing to meet your company’s unique needs.