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Interview with CPO Jackie Dane - Mental health in the workplace

11 May 2022

by La Fosse Associates

( Words)
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we interviewed our Chief People Officer Jackie Dane to hear her thoughts on the role employers have to play in looking after their employees' mental health.

Hi Jackie! Could you please give me a short intro into you and your role at La Fosse?

I am the CPO or Chief People Officer at La Fosse. So, my role here is to look after the people side of the business, in its simplest form how we attract, retain and develop top talent. But I think that's quite a static definition. I believe to be totally effective, we need to explore how you get the best out of and engage people, how you enable individuals to bring their whole self to work, and how you get people to engage with the organisation’s strategy, purpose, and culture.

What is the difference between a CPO (Chief People Officer) and an HRD (HR Director) or CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer)?

Chief Human Resource Officers and HR Directors will often focus on policy, process and tactical execution, whereas a Chief People Officer is more about people, culture and workplace strategies:

  • How do you drive the business forward and enable individuals to engage with your purpose and culture?

  • What are the strategic initiatives that are going to make you stand out in the market and drive people to you?

  • How do you make sure the organisation is designed in a way that makes it able to operate effectively within an external environment that is constantly changing?

  • How do you attract under represented individuals into a diverse workforce?

  • How do you make everyone feel engaged and included?

Having worked in the HR industry for over 25 years, how have you seen the function evolve over time?

It’s quite interesting – I first started as a consultant in talent development, where the focus was on developing individuals and organisations to their full potential. Then I moved into ‘personnel’ as it was then (shows my age!) Personnel then was all about policies and procedures and tick sheets. When I joined Personnel, my background enabled me to look at issues through a consulting and development lens, which wasn’t the norm. I now think that HR and People teams are and have to be more consultative, to partner with the business to deliver strategy, and culture (the behaviours and values) that are instrumental to success.

I also think we have seen a much-needed shift to using data to drive decisions. This is critical as we must be able to demonstrate our ROI to the business.

What's the most important role the People team has in business today?

Be custodians of the culture, engagement and inclusion. La Fosse in particular is a people-led business, so we need to drive initiatives that make people want to invest their career with us rather than elsewhere. Once they join, it's about investing in their development, making them feel engaged and included.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, what advice or examples of best practice would you give to organisations who are looking to improve their mental health support function?

I think you've got to take a step back and ask yourself, ‘is mental health always going to be on our agenda?’ I think it absolutely is.

It’s also important to remember that it’s not just millennials or Gen Zs that suffer with their mental health, it can be anyone. Historically, individuals were better at hiding issues and that wasn’t healthy; the shift to recognising mental health conditions is good but I think the real challenge for employers is:

how do we destigmatise them, and how do we work to prevent them?

As well as other forms of depression and anxiety, stress can become distress, which can create bigger problems. Some of the initiatives we already offer at La Fosse are great – hypnotherapy, counselling, Employee Assistance Programme, and Mental Health First Aiders – but they all rely on someone saying, ‘I have a problem’, and knowing where to go. I think our Mental Health First Aiders have been really well received and can and have  offered some really valuable support. What we need is to now get managers spotting stress, anxiety, or where individuals simply aren’t coping early, as well as making mental health part of everyday language in order to destigmatise it.

The next step will be to train everyone, especially managers, to recognise and to talk about mental health. This will help us work towards removing this stigma..

What is your future prediction for the HR/People function given the talent and tech trends that we're already seeing today?

In today’s market, I think we’ve got to be more creative. We’ve got to accept that we’re never going to find candidates with the full skillset needed, so we need to understand what is coachable. I think you've got to hire on potential, which requires Talent Attraction and Talent Development to work alongside each other. I think we've done a great job of managing this at La Fosse – you might not find someone who has experience in the area you’re looking for, but they may have similar skills, capabilities, and potential that can be developed.

It’s also about the whole learning management system. It's not just about offering modules or classroom-based learning, it’s about giving people training that they can access anywhere at a time that suites them, so that they can take responsibility for their own learning.

Moving further into the technology side, there are lots of great innovations coming through. There’s technology that helps you scan CVs, video-based application portals, and even bots that can look at people's calendars and start scheduling interviews. A lot of what we do at the moment is very transactional, and I think technology like this will give People teams more time to focus on more ‘human’ activities instead of manual processes. There is always the risk that this might depersonalise processes, but only time will tell what balance will be struck – for now, recent advancements have come with a lot of benefits and really opened up what the future responsibilities of the People team might be.

Where to next?

​5 key components of an effective workplace mental health strategy

Mental Health: Why it’s better when we talk about it

Secret Leaders Live: Mental Health Among Tech Entrepreneurs