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Student Wellbeing and What it Means for Recruiters

With a 413% increase in students saying they have mental health problems in the last eight years, employee mental health and wellbeing is now firmly on the agenda and being tackled head on by many graduate recruiters. I wanted to find out more so read on to see what I discovered.

As founder of the Graduate Recruiters Network (GRN) I arrange quarterly round table style events where I personally invite members to a venue in London. I decided for our June event to invite experts from the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) to present their findings on mental health in 18-24 year olds. Attendees were all senior talent managers from forward-thinking recruiters such as Mars, Avios, HM Treasury, Whitbread and many others kindly hosted by Hult University. After an engaging Q&A session, GRN members were enlightened with practical advice to go back to their next board meeting. So, what did we learn?

We all know the benefits of keeping employees happy but some startling statistics presented by IES meant this was an issue that if ignored will start to make the way we recruit, manage and develop individuals with mental health issues more complex as the problem grows. Did you know;

·        29% of students experience mental distress (Student Minds 2014)

·        In 2017, there were 53,000 students with mental health conditions (IES 2017)

·        71% were female

·        More likely to be in Creative Arts and Design, Humanities and Languages, Psychology and Social Sciences

·        146 student suicides in 2016

·        The best University for student welfare was Harper Adams University

·        The good news was that graduates are, on average, happier over their lifetime than non-graduates (HEFCE).

GRN members already making developments shared their success stories showing how addressing mental health and wellbeing for all staff can improve retention, productivity and reduce absenteeism and of course, the bottom line. A few of the key action points were;

1.      Empathy. We need to understand the lives of 18-24 year olds before we can begin to help. If this generation seem alien to you then you are not alone. Of course there are similarities across all generations but 18-24 year olds find themselves increasingly under pressure to perform in a job…and socially. Life is competitive. With hyper-protective parents and risk-averse outlooks some are not emotionally mature to deal with the transition into work life.

2.      Look to HE. Universities are at the forefront dealing with students day-to-day with mental health issues. Whilst we can’t expect to have the luxury of an in-house GP we can copy some of their best practices. Simple things such as mentoring, having a mental health first aider, peer support, recognising early signs and developing ways to accommodate different working preferences can all make a difference and are simpler to implement.

3.      Train your managers. Dealing with staff mental health issues whilst keeping a professional distance can be hard for many line managers. This makes dealing with mental health almost impossible unless you train managers to relax and create other ways to discuss issues that both parties feel comfortable. There are mental health awareness training courses and other external providers to help you make a start. Of course, the hardest part is getting people to talk about these issues so making managers approachable is a step in the right direction.

Other advice is available for the charity Mind and publications such as the HSE Management Standards booklet which came highly recommend by IES. Commenting on the research Dr. Sally Wilson said “Other advice is available from HSE and publications such as ‘Thriving at Work’, an independent review into workplace mental health, commissioned by the Prime Minister in January. The review, co-authored by Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, provides a user-friendly introduction to good practice based on the latest research evidence.”

How will you tackle your staff mental health and wellbeing? I'd love to hear examples of best practice so do send me an email on d.hawes@grb.uk.com.

Dan Hawes is the Marketing Director at Graduate Recruitment Bureau. He hopes to enlighten students, graduates and employers with his wisdom from over 20 years in the industry.  

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