Investing; portfolios, playing the stock market, buying property, collecting fine wine – investing is all about spending. Or is it?

When investing in your people, there’s more to it than getting out the cheque book.

Time, energy, resources, relationships, even emotions, these are the things that matter when individuals are concerned. As headhunters we know what makes employees tick. Job satisfaction is derived most often not from salary, but from having a good place to work, a collaborative team culture, access to training and development opportunities, and the opportunity to make a difference. The flipside is if people are tempted to move from one place to another, it’s seldom just about the money, (money is typically number three on most peoples list) – a lack of challenge, autonomy, flexibility and support will be the deciding factors.

We all define satisfaction differently – it’s highly personal and unique to each of us. The same is true with wellbeing, and simply throwing money at it doesn’t work. It’s all very well putting a bowl of apples on reception and thinking that you’ve solved everyone’s problems – but not everyone likes apples.

That’s not to say that paying for your employees’ gym memberships, access to therapy apps and other, similar initiatives don’t have their place. Physical wellbeing perks and benefits are extremely valuable; a workout, for example, is good for the body and good for the mind because of the endorphins it releases, not simply because it gets you away from your desk and your screen. At Hyperion we also bring in an external coach who runs mindfulness sessions and the team benefits greatly from his insights.

But we need to invest more time and energy into empowering our workforce with positive mental wellbeing. We need to move past the idea that mental health is the same thing as mental ill health.

Because we all have mental health. We all have good days and we all have bad days, and having positive mental health is being able to ride that rollercoaster; enjoying the good bits and not letting the bad bits drag you down.

Where employees are concerned, an element of personalisation goes a long way and surveys are a simple and cost-effective way of demonstrating that you are thinking about your staff and have their interests at heart – provided you act on the results of course. Helping colleagues feel valued and supported is crucial for maintaining a positive morale and strong staff retention.

Leaders must also work hard to make mental health less of a taboo subject – this comes from the top down. We must champion a culture where it’s OK to speak about problems – where employees won’t be vindicated for having a rough time. A drop in an individual’s performance, or a change in their mood, could very easily be down to personal problems, but simply allowing people to be open can avert these shifts.

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Honesty and transparency have always been key tenets to my life philosophy, and therefore the culture at Hyperion Cleantech Group. It seems that mental health often remains taboo even among those who champion wellbeing. Last year, we a company suffered the ultimate loss to mental ill health, one of our team, having battled with depression and mental health for many years, took her own life. Devastating of course for our team. What humbled, and to some extent surprised me most was the number of messages I received, in short saying ‘thank you’ for being so open about it, for not shying away from an admission, one of our team succumbed to suicide. According to the WHO, 800,000 people take their lives each year, nearly 130,000 in Europe alone. Most of them worked somewhere! Of course, as an entrepreneur, business owner or leader, it’s not your job to ‘fix’ everyone’s problems, it it though your responsibility to create a culture where people can be honest about their struggles and be supported as best as possible. Setting up, and regularly promoting an Employee Assistance Programe (AEP) is cheap, simple and pretty much a baseline, in my view.

But it’s not just about providing a safe environment for anyone struggling, important as that is, it’s about providing an environment of productivity and profitability. A retained, sustainable, and fun environment where people can give of their best. People welcome accountability where they are given autonomy and flexibility to deliver.

So, invest – financially, yes. But do much more than that: invest your time in checking if your employees are OK; invest your energy in helping them feel good; invest in understanding what motivates them; invest in your relationships with them and getting to know when they’re struggling; and invest in your own mental health by speaking up.

Stay safe and be well