A ‘culture of care’ puts employees in the driver’s seat: Q&A with Manisha Mistry
Health & Safety csa group Mental Health
Over the past decade, many organizations have steadily invested in resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of employees, a movement accelerated with the introduction of COVID-19 in 2020.
As an organization committed to health, safety and sustainability, CSA Group is focused on psychological health and safety through its standards development organization, but also through the resources and benefits it offers to its more than 2,000 employees located around the world.
Above and beyond offering an inclusive set of benefits and resources for employees, CSA Group has been steadfastly investing in and building a ‘culture of care’ with employees in the driver’s seat.
Manisha Mistry, senior director, health, safety, sustainability and environment (HSSE) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at CSA Group speaks to OHS Canada about this culture and the recently launched Mental Health Ambassador Program.
What is CSA Group’s approach to employee psychological health and safety?
The psychological health and safety of our employees has always been important to us. In 2019, we initiated ‘Project Care’, a strategic project led by a global committee with a focus on elevating the organization’s mental wellbeing strategy. Since then, we have made significant strides in expanding and strengthening our resources and offerings, leveraging insights and feedback from employees to continuously improve.
In addition to building a package of competitive benefits and resources, we have been very focused on education and training. Regardless of their position, CSA Group offers employees the opportunity to participate in training that offers practical solutions for dealing with mental health, while helping employees learn more about mental health. All employees participate in training to understand mental health and different conditions, recognize signs of concerns, learn how to support a colleague, and discover steps to take in a crisis. This past year, we rolled out training for people managers, mental health first aid training, and launched a Mental Health Ambassador Program.
Can you tell us more about the Mental Health Ambassador Program?
In 2022, CSA Group trained 70 Mental Health Ambassadors across most of the locations where we operate. At the core of their role, ambassadors act as a bridge between an employee who may be in distress and the many resources available to them. Our ambassadors are familiar with internal protocols and policies and can provide referral pathways and resources, when requested.
Representing employees from different levels, departments, and locations, and subject to a confidentiality agreement, the intent is to create a more psychologically safe environment for employees in distress to seek out the assistance they may need.
In addition, CSA Group’s Mental Health Ambassadors are responsible to act as role models and promote a healthy lifestyle as a champion for mental health and wellbeing within the organization. They also take the lead in promoting discussions on mental wellbeing when opportunities present themselves.
What inspired the introduction of CSA Group’s Mental Health Ambassador Program?
The introduction of the program was driven by a couple of factors. CSA Group’s ‘culture of care’ is focused on establishing a workplace devoid of stigmas associated with mental health, and an environment where employees can safely speak about the challenges that they are facing. Across our organization, we are focused on providing training focused on building a baseline of mental health knowledge for all employees, including specific training for people managers.
Although this training was well received and is important, we recognized the need for a group of trained individuals who can more strategically and impartially support employees. Additionally, we are hopeful that our ambassadors can play a role in increasing awareness and usage of our mental health benefits and tools because we recognize that navigating our robust set of resources can be overwhelming, especially in moments of distress.
How were ambassadors trained?
Training ambassadors is three step process. First, employees are required to successfully complete mental health first aid training and receive certification through a licensed provider. Second, employees must successfully complete a specialized ambassador training facilitated by CSA Group’s Employee Assistance Program provider. Finally, a confidentiality agreement must be completed prior to ambassador activation. Once designated an ambassador, employees must attend regular meetings and complete ongoing training.
Looking at CSA Group’s mental health and wellness program holistically, how has the introduction of the Mental Health Ambassador Program strengthened or complemented the program?
The introduction of ambassadors helps us build a bridge between the many resources and tools that we offer and our employees. Internally, launching and promoting a global program of this significance gives our HSSE team the chance to shine a spotlight on psychological health and safety as a broader topic, which is always a win. We have successfully used our company intranet, town halls and team meetings to spread the word.
For organizations considering implementing an ambassador program, are there challenges or learnings that you can share?
As a global organization operating in multiple time-zones and countries, coordination of regionally relevant training can pose some challenges. However, these learning pains were overshadowed by the overwhelmingly positive response and feedback from stakeholders across our organization.
Moving into 2023, we will prioritize growing the program in all regions that we operate. To keep our ambassadors engaged, we will offer ongoing training, keeping a close eye on any micro and macro trends that may be influencing the lives of our employees.
What will CSA Group’s HSSE team be focused on in 2023?
As we return to a post-pandemic work environment, psychological safety will continue to be an objective and priority for our team. Specifically, we will focus on inclusive leadership, supporting leaders in strengthening some of the core competencies needed to support the creation of safe and supportive spaces for employees.
As we see more employees head into the office, we will also be undertaking a “safety reboot” helping employees get reoriented to our offices and labs, including providing basic safety training. Overall, we will work on strengthening the organization’s safety mindset, as some of what used to be second nature is not as top of mind for employees who have been working remotely. Hazard recognition will be a critically important component of this.
CSA Group is a global organization dedicated to safety, social good and sustainability. It is a leader in standards development and in testing, inspection and certification around the world, including Canada, the U.S.A., Europe and Asia. CSA Group’s mandate is to hold the future to a higher standard.