Shifting Gears For Workplace Wellbeing
In Conversation With Mark Haley, National Organisational Development Manager at Border Express
In the first of our series of client profiles, Janet McCulloch, Managing Partner of Leadership Dimensions, chats with Mark Haley about learning and development, change and managing mental health in the high pressure transport industry.
Mark, tell me, what’s your role in Learning and Development, and, do you think the challenges in the transport industry are similar or different to those in other industries?
I’m the National Organisational Development Manager (and now Safety), my role is a little eclectic but my primary function is to provide the process, tools and opportunities to support the learning and development for our people. We are an enterprise Registered Training Organisation (RTO) which specialises in Transport and Logistics training. I’d suggest our challenges aren’t dissimilar to other industries, balancing time, resources and commitment to our customers and ourselves to fulfil our Learning & Development requirements. Transport is a very transient industry (no pun intended) and language, literacy and numeracy considerations do provide some challenges that may not be as prevalent in other industries. We are an aging industry and attracting young people is becoming an issue, how we engage and retain that group is an exciting opportunity for our organisational development team.
What’s your strategy for learning at Border Express and how did this come about?
Our vision is to be recognised as the industry leader for service delivery and value. Coming into the team I noted that a lot of what we did was simply to tick boxes, our training was bland, generic and loosely aligned to what we actually did, people were being accredited and happy for the certificate but our effort wasn’t being reflected in our results.
Our strategy is to understand our people, process, and importantly our strategic direction and align training and development to fit. We started with us. “I’m just a workplace trainer” was common language and thinking – now we see ourselves as change leaders and coaches and mentors, our change was the catalyst to change the way we design and deliver our training. We have now redesigned our training strategy, to our Engage, Nurture and Grow program, which provides a role specific training development plan from on boarding to ongoing career development. It’s a very exciting time for the team and we are looking forward to rolling it out in the new year.
How do you think the focus of Learning and Development in organisations has changed over your career and what do you think is the key to good learning?
Change. I think good organisations understand that Learning & Development is not just a tick and flick exercise, it’s critical for success and building great places to work. The key to good learning is it needs to add value to the learner and organisation, it has to be purposeful, targeted to the learner and their needs and learning style and appealing.
Border Express recently ran a Certificate IV in Frontline Management for 25 of your middle management staff. What was your objective in doing that?
We have identified that frontline leadership is crucial to achieving our vision. Historically our business has been great at providing opportunity for people but not so good at preparing them for that opportunity. For us, the program was initially simply a great way to recognise and reward some good people with good quality training and support them transitioning from operational roles into leadership. The flow on effects from this effort has been awesome for our Tullamarine Branch, the participants have not only utilised what they learnt but have been very proactive sharing the tools and techniques. We recognise it’s important to not only invest, but to invest in quality training with an organisation that understands our business with people tailoring and delivering content that meaningful and relevant to our workplace.
Mark, you’re a regular participant of Movember, why is that important to you?
(Movember is an organisation committed to changing the face of men’s health, best known for annual moustache growing fundraiser supporting men’s cancer research and mental health issues)
I’ve supported Movember for over 10 years now, for me it’s personal. My family have lost two men – one to prostate cancer and another to depression, two great guys, good men and gone way too early.
Personally I miss them, I bounced off both in different ways however not a day goes by that their loss doesn’t manifest itself in those closest to them – it’s heartbreaking to watch a woman who dedicated her life to her partner dealing with the ensuing loneliness or teenagers grappling with why their dad isn’t around, I see and feel that every day.
Movember provides an opportunity to raise some funds to work with both causes and during the month I spend some time thinking about both of them and their impact on me.
It’s said that only 1 in 3 men are even prepared to admit they have a mental health challenge, and it’s probably fair to say that women working in a male dominated environment are less willing to speak up also. Why do you think that is?
When you start to delve into mental health and its impacts, the stats become frightening. Through my personal experience I’ve become more aware and considered around my attitudes and approach, I listen and notice more and what I’ve seen is that people are reluctant to admit that they are not ok – the reality is all of us at some point needs support. The real issue though is that when they do need support, people are not sure how to respond and that contributes to people’s reluctance.
In a transport and logistics business, what are your specific stress and wellbeing issues and how do you see these manifest in your workplace?
What a question, I think when it comes to wellbeing, our work and personal lives are intertwined and it’s virtually impossible to separate the two influences. Invariably people bring to workplace what’s happening in their personal life and what’s happening at work impacts them at home. So setting all the personal issues to one side, our industry is a competitive, time dependent, heavily regulated and diverse workplace, all of these requirements impose a level stress on all of us. For our drivers, customer service is key, meeting time slots is essential and when they get stuck in peak hour traffic, for them that’s a stressful situation. Our allocating team have hundreds of customers that rely on them to coordinate pick-ups and deliveries in real time day in day out, that for some people is stressful and our customer service people are often challenged by customers that are not happy with our service. Imagine taking those calls all day.
Then add concerns with family, mortgage, bills and all of a sudden everything gets a little overwhelming.
The issues manifest in staff turnover, productivity, bullying and harassment, damage to freight or property etc. – I’d suggest not dissimilar to other industries. The effects are tangible, more often than not it doesn’t just affect an individual, it will grow and impact a team or a branch – from a leadership perspective stress and wellbeing issues can be contagious and impact a whole workplace.
What do you think is most critical in the management of these issues in a workplace?
Stay connected. In our industry a lot of our workforce work alone and spends hours driving with little to no interaction with anyone. Our drivers are the obvious ones however we have lots of good people that spend a lot of their work time immersed in their role or tasks operating in little silos. Find ways to connect people to each other through work, projects or community. Support campaigns that encourage self-help and self-awareness to build a caring workplace environment, and most importantly have very accessible, easy support processes that enable people to support someone when they need help or enable the individual to seek assistance when required.
What would you recommend for other organisations who are considering broader leadership programs or more targeted stress and wellbeing programs?
For broader leadership programs, ensure the leadership program is aligned to your business, its values and strategic direction, ensuring it’s clear on its leadership expectations and the tools are broad enough that they can be applied across arrange of issues.
It’s important that the program is seen to be your program (not a generic “off shelf” program) and delivered consistently across your whole leadership team. Our ‘BE A Leader’ program not only provided tools and process for our leaders but a performance language that enabled our people to articulate themselves in a way that they weren’t able to previously. We don’t tell people to “pull their head in” we simply ask them to “step above the line” and call the behaviour in a non-confrontational way.
Equally important was partnering with Leadership Dimensions to assist with design and implementation. In my experience nobody does it better from the program design through to implementation and ongoing support. Leadership Dimensions’ willingness to engage and partner makes all the difference, before you know it they’re part of your team working with you and along for the ride.
Janet McCulloch is Managing Partner of Leadership Dimensions.
Leadership Dimensions thanks Mark Haley for his time and insights.