Create a clear rationale for intervention
When looking at a clear rationale for intervention, It is important to consider exactly what you are trying to achieve by implementing a crisis or trauma support programme. There may be things that the organisation is seeking to improve, address or change. Each organisation will have a slightly different perspective on this and there will be many people within the organisation with differing views and motivations.
Any policy must therefore have a clear rationale with an analysis of associated costs and benefits. We may find that the people closest to the operational “frontline” have the strongest motivation to address trauma but struggle to convince those with power and influence to implement changes. Conversely, the C-suite may want to tackle the issue for financial reasons but over-stretched team leaders view it as a tick-box exercise with no real value for them.
Some of the common driving forces we see are:
Poor mental health costs UK employers £45 billion a year with 72 million working days lost every year. Early intervention and effective treatments result in financial savings including reduced sickness absence, and costs of sickness cover or overtime and recruitment. The Return on Investment of early stage supporting activities can be up to 8:1 with savings gained through reducing absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.
An effective critical incident strategy can mean that people are less likely to burnout or leave when they haven’t made a full recovery from an event. It can contribute to better working relationships and increased employee satisfaction resulting in the organisation being able to attract and retain high quality workers.
As symptoms of mental distress escalate, the individual is likely to experience deterioration of focus, decision making, concentration and assessment of risk. Presenteeism costs three times more than sick leave. Where incidents are handled poorly, the organisation is also negatively affected by mistrust and cynicism towards leaders. If the organisation is not perceived to care, then why should its employees?
Increasing employee morale, health and wellbeing
A good strategy will empower people in their own recovery from a critical incident. Supportive management involvement, as part of the post incident procedures, leads to organisational empowerment and reduced stress for managers. Leadership and morale are both closely linked to resilience and peer support and can actually help protect individuals against traumatic stress. If we get it wrong the results can be devastating in terms of the human suffering and the ripple effect to families and colleagues.
Maintaining a reputation as a socially responsible organisation
There is a wider cost to society arising from critical incidents. Unresolved distress and trauma can lead to family breakdown, violence – inside and outside the home – alcohol or drug abuse and even suicide and homicide.
Protecting against litigation
Good procedures for psychological recovery and rehabilitation can reduce exposure to reputational damage and the financial costs of prosecution or litigation. A sound policy will ensure that the organisation is able to meet the requirements of Health and Safety Executive legislation in respect of risks arising from potentially traumatic incidents at work.
These driving forces will have varying relevance depending on organisational aims and vision.
Always test, monitor and evaluate.
An evaluation process is essential to ensure that the strategy is operating effectively and not just sitting on the shelf gathering dust. There is no point in it looking wonderful on paper if it doesn’t work or doesn’t get used! Plans for managing the psychological impact of events should be tested as part of any other crisis simulation exercises.
Organisations need to consider how they can best measure the effectiveness of the trauma support programme with regard to their original rationale for it. Information may come from:
- Sickness absence figures
- Turnover rates and information from exit interviews
- Workforce surveys
- Team and branch meetings
- Feedback from managers and peer supporters
N.B. Managing major incidents and roles that are vulnerable to secondary trauma brings additional, more complex challenges so always seek qualified, professional support.
A good strategy should be clear, simple, cost-effective and embedded in organisational culture. Where the human side of post-incident operations is handled well, there are great benefits for all concerned with a faster recovery for both individuals and organisations, so it is well worth the effort!
Initial questions to consider:
What are the top priorities for your organisation?
Is there a consensus on this?
Where may there be areas of resistance and what are the reasons for this?
It is important that all those involved see value in their situation.
Different rationales shouldn’t be incompatible but it’s down to how it is presented to all involved!
Who will be responsible for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of any policy and when / how often will this be done?
How are concerns about the process captured and dealt with?
What action will be taken in instances where the procedures haven’t been followed, e.g. education of managers?
For more informative resources on strategies for creating resilient organisations, please see the following link.