Accenture is one of the world’s leading organisations providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services. As a long-standing Partner of Business Disability Forum, we recently spoke with Mental Health Executive Sponsor, Barbara Harvey concerning the company’s Mental Health Allies Programme.
What is the Accenture Mental Health Allies training programme?
“The Allies are volunteer representatives from the business who have stepped forward to act as a “go to” person for people seeking support or information for someone else on mental health. They are not counsellors or therapists; they are ambassadors and advocates complementing the support provided by Human Resources, Employee Assistance Programme, Occupational Health, Career Counsellors and Line Managers.”
How did the idea for the programme come about?
“Accenture has a strong Inclusion and Diversity programme and an active PwD (Persons with Disabilities) network. Following the growth of membership to 600 (and rising) the Inclusion and Diversity lead felt it would be the right time to launch an Ally network. Our well-established ‘Straight Allies’ LGBT network has been hugely successful.
The Mental Health Ally programme needed to be different, as we wanted our Allies to be signposts to the support systems that were available at Accenture. We wanted them to be able to have a useful conversation with anyone who might be worried talking about how they are feeling. We partnered with MIND to hold a number of 3 hour interactive workshops to equip our Allies with the knowledge and tools needed to get involved. We’ve also planned a schedule of talks, postcards and events to keep our new Allies engaged and to continue to grow their understanding of this complex area of health and well-being.”
How was the Mental Health Allies programme received by staff members?
“Originally we were looking for 50 Allies but when we initially went out to our PwD network 132 of our colleagues came back within two days asking to be on the programme, so as you can see the programme is popular! Accenture is a ‘people’ organisation, we employ some of the brightest minds in the country to deliver exceptional work to our clients and for this we need them to be well supported, both physically and mentally.
One of the most exciting things is that the Allies network is now 200 strong with a target of 400 by August 2015. Most of our new Allies are NOT members of the PwD network which means that the programme is reaching beyond our traditional network and into the heart and soul of the organisation.”
From a business perspective, what was the greatest benefit of investing in the Mental Health Allies programme?
“The greatest benefit is simple - our colleagues know that they can bring their whole selves to work, good days and bad. We are realistic about the stresses and strains that happen in life whether at home or in work. We have support systems in place that may help when they are needed. Our Allies take these key messages out to our people and help us make every person feel they can be themselves. A healthy workforce is best for our people, our clients and our business.
We hope that this programme encourages our colleagues to seek an early intervention. We are looking at our various statistics to help us verify that we have been able to achieve this.”
For more information about Accenture, visit: http://www.accenture.com/us-en/company/people/diversity/Pages/index.aspx
For more information about Business Disability Forum, visit: http://www.businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/