Toni Graves, global head of reward & wellbeing at Allen & Overy shares how Allen & Overy developed a mental health programme for line managers. This comes under Core Standard 5 – Effective People Management – in the City Mental Health Alliance’s (CMHA) Thriving at Work Guide.
The relationship people have with their line manager can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health – whether positive or negative. We realised we needed to develop our line managers to be able to have open conversations with people they were managing to identify when someone might be struggling with mental ill-health and how to promote good mental-health amongst their teams.
We developed our own half-day mental health training. We taught our line managers how to develop the conversation beyond just ‘how are you?’ and how to encourage someone to open up when needed. The training also provided guidance on how to manage difficult issues such as when someone’s performance is suffering because of poor health or wellbeing. We have made sure all our line managers can talk about the different support pathways available for people that may be struggling.
How it was implemented
After running a pilot, we found many people wanted the course to be longer, so we developed the course to be three hours 30 minutes (originally two hours 45 minutes). We also created a condensed hour and a half version to reach our lawyers who are very limited on time. Having delivered the training in the UK, the next step is to understand how we can deliver the course globally.
A key takeaway from the line management training has been the need to develop positive healthy behaviours amongst team working practices. For example, some teams when starting a new project or new client matter will now sit down and talk about whether people have important commitments outside of work such as sport, choir, theatre etc. By talking openly at the start and identifying what those commitments are, teams can support each other’s commitments to the best of their ability. In addition, partners and line managers are expected to encourage their teams to take regular breaks.
In addition, to understand our progress in developing line management capability, individuals can now provide feedback on their line manager using a set of upward feedback questions that reflect different aspects of the line manager role. As part of this, we have added a wellbeing question to find out how comfortable our people feel discussing issues that may affect their wellbeing with their line manager. Our hope is that the data will help us to identify where line managers and individuals may need more personal support.
In order to get people to come to a half day training session, it really helps to have the support of a leader in each practice group who will promote the training. This step is crucial. Afterall, if you have a junior associate telling a partner they aren’t available for a half day because of some training the partner knows nothing about, you are putting that associate in a difficult situation. To implement any new mental health initiative, you need buy in from the business and for leaders to lead by example.