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Building frontline capability to have challenging conversations about mental health

In a collaboration between our Department of Human Services Mill Park Contact Centre in Australia and an experiential communications training company, we have created a bespoke four-part experiential development programme for our frontline team leaders, ‘Experience the Best’.

Integrating contemporary mental health and wellbeing practices with practical coaching, ‘Experience the Best’ harnesses the human behavioural expertise of actors to practically demonstrate and teach best practice communication skills whilst ensuring workplace contextualisation to enable meaningful practice and application by all participants.

The programme focuses on building positive relationships whilst fostering an inclusive workplace culture, psychological safety and strengths-based transferable leadership skills.

The programme was well received and with positive impact. In addition to immediate positive operational outcomes, team leaders recognised growth in their communication and coaching capabilities. For example:

  • 87% of participants confirmed that practicing conversations with the actors increased their skills and confidence, especially in areas where mental health was raised as a barrier to performance.
  • 94% of participants confirmed they were confident to deliver difficult feedback to a team member following the programme and could more confidently uncover the real barriers to performance.
  • Teams led by those participants who implemented the training principles experienced an 8.34% average reduction in unplanned leave.

Daniel Brown, a team leader from the site said: “The learning encouraged sitting with your team and addressing behaviour as a separate entity, working together to understand and overcome any challenges. Doing so – coupled with genuine questions into why someone feels the way they do and how this may affect performance – creates an environment of care and trust. I feel more capable in having the tough conversations with my team, and our coaching sessions now scratch at what’s below the surface – finding the real issues. It allows for open, honest discussions around mental health and helps develop pathways to support employees through their struggle.”

Andrea Johns, Contact Centre Manager, commented: “Using real-time scenarios with professional actors made the training engaging, sticky and effective. I have been very impressed with both the operational and people results, and we are looking to extend this to a larger cohort in 2020.”