While nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of Canadian human resources leaders say employee mental health is an important challenge to manage this year, 48 per cent say their employer’s benefits program doesn’t provide access to a mental-health professional, according to a new survey conducted by Environics Research for Dialogue Health Technologies Inc.

Sylvain Beauséjour, vice-president of talent and culture at Dialogue, says listening, understanding and adapting are the keys to combatting this challenge. “It involves listening to what employees’ needs and concerns are, then we can create more inclusive solutions than typical health benefits, which are more aligned to responding to needs after the fact. Looking at a more preventative approach and investing in wellness programs will help to reduce leaves of absence.”

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The survey, which polled about 100 HR leaders, also found 70 per cent of HR leaders said they haven’t provided mental-health training to managers or feel managers have insufficient training to help them recognize and support employees’ mental-health needs.

“Employers should examine what can be done to equip managers to identify signs of mental-health struggles within their teams,” says Beauséjour. “In many cases, people still don’t know how to react or what to do. They need to be aware of the signs early and help to reduce any stigma around mental health in the workplace. So manager training should be more of a priority when allocating resources.”

Nearly three-quarters (70 per cent) of respondents cited talent attraction and retention, as well as staff shortages, as key challenges. However, the survey noted HR leaders face barriers that make it challenging to implement new initiatives and adapt benefits to help address wellness concerns at the root of staffing issues.

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Half (50 per cent) of respondents said it was difficult to secure financial resources for HR initiatives, while another 46 per cent said they were prevented from improving benefits due to financial constraints and 36 per cent said it was challenging to gain C-suite support for HR priorities.

Beauséjour notes market conditions and economic factors can influence what can be offered from a program perspective. “HR leaders need to think of how they can build the best business cases possible to demonstrate the issue because we often [forget the necessity] of having the right data to justify why such an investment is important.”