In “The Canadian Workplace Situation” (Part 1 of our Workplace Chaplaincy series), we identified two issues facing Canadian workplaces. The first is the well documented mental health struggles facing a great number of Canadian workers. The second is what many employers are calling "The Millennial Problem" – considering the question of how to facilitate and welcome in the ‘new’ working generation by utilizing their strengths, while also balancing the workplace culture and needs of employers.
In Part 2, “A Creative Solution Built Around Employee Needs”, we looked at how chaplaincy can be a pre-emptive strategy to address the mental health crisis affecting the Canadian workforce. We also looked at the origin of chaplaincy, looking back 1700 years, as we defined what chaplaincy IS and IS NOT today.
Addressing Challenges in the Workplace
In this installment, we will look at how a chaplaincy program can address interpersonal tension and challenges in the workplace, as well as enhance the offerings of a workplace. Looking back at "The Changing Canadian Workforce" stats, we see a few striking trends that are impacting the workforce:
- The Canadian workforce is moving to the online world.
- The demographical make-up of the Canadian workforce is shifting dramatically.
- Workplace wellness is moving from an optional or incentive-based offering to an expectation.
"The Millennial Problem"
A study from Deloitte stated that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials.
We have heard horror stories from many of our clients of their early experiences with this segment of the workforce. At its core, "The Millennial Problem” boils down to a difference in perspective and values between previous generations and the emerging one.
The millennial generation can often come across as entitled, lazy, careless, disinterested, and addicted to their phones. While there is truth underlying these perspectives, research into this area has pointed to an alternative hypothesis - not that millennials are the worst generation of all time, but rather they are misunderstood and harbingers of a new digital era.
A slight perspective change can change everything.
- Rather than viewing this generation as lazy, we can see them as the most under-employed generation, where their employment level does not match their educational level and their work can lack the intellectual stimulation they seek.
- Rather than a generation needing constant praise, they are a generation looking to professionally grow and seek feedback to be better on the job.
- Rather than being glued to their phones, they are the most technically literate generation thus far and view technology as an extension of themselves, asking themselves “why spend effort on different steps that tech can do better?”.
- Most of all, they are not a digitally happy generation, but they are a digitally isolated and lonely generation. They vastly prefer face-to-face communication over a digital interface, but the technology (that enhances their ability to learn, work, and operate effectively) has devasted social intelligence, resulting in, at times, odd or inappropriate behaviours in a work environment due to a lack of in-person awareness.
Immigration & The Canadian Workforce
Another glaring reality of the Canadian workforce is that it is being highly diversified with immigration, the workforce is increasingly heterogenous.
With 33% of the workforce believed to be comprised of immigrant populations by 2036, understanding these people groups is becoming more important than ever. Maintaining ethnic sensitivity and acceptance, while letting go of stereotypes and divisive beliefs, is central to the success of a healthy workplace.
A further important aspect is that 51% of immigrants have a university degree, which comes with both expectations of a workplace as well as awareness to the operations and decisions being made regarding worker wellness.
Many of these immigrants are also coming from highly social cultures and being transplanted into a highly outcome-driven culture seeking to extract maximum value from every angle. This creates a tension where the native culture of immigrants is much richer and more supportive of the individuals, and as immigrants leave these social and cultural networks, they are left vulnerable without the social connections needed to weather the storms of life.
What does this have to do with chaplaincy?
Workplace chaplaincy is based on the concept of bringing wellness to the Canadian workforce.
A business will need to worry about production; quality; and bottom-line. Chaplains, on the other hand, focus on the holistic wellbeing of the workers, fundamentally believing that healthier and more whole humans are better workers and better members of society.
Our focus is on identifying workers struggles and partnering with them through the circumstance, whether chronic or acute crisis, and helping them achieve personal goals for growth that translate directly into their work.
For example, here is a common scenario in the workplace:
A common-law relationship is doing poorly, there are massive financial decisions on the line, as well as custody of children. A manager would ideally like personal life to be left at the door, but is this possible? Is this the sort of expectation that is leading to the mental health crisis seen in the workplace?
The reality is that most workers cannot compartmentalize these personal issues. With this constantly on their minds, they are distracted at work, and may be engaged in conversations with their spouse, friends, or lawyers. They are generally only at work to collect a paycheck, but their mind and soul are somewhere else. Even the paycheck may be small when compared to the finances they may lose if the relationship falls apart, so the leverage of the workplace is far less than even expected.
The question becomes “How can a workplace help the holistic wellness of their employees in order to extract their best work during the day for a reasonable cost?”
Much research has gone into this and resulted in the near universal adoption of Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAPs). But as mentioned prior, while the idea is sound and the resources available are often exactly what is needed to address the issues, only 11% of workers use these resources. Why? As mentioned above, millennials are tech savvy, but study after study has shown they prefer face-to-face communication. And many immigrant populations come from highly social cultures. In both contexts, the concept of engaging with their personal wellbeing through a computer screen, fancy app, or even a counsellor on a phone is a backwards way of approaching the issue. It seems sterile, cold, and paradoxical to the intended purpose.
This is where a chaplaincy program comes in.
Chaplains are real people who care about the workforce of Canada; they are people desiring to be a “cappellani” for those sick, unwell, or alone.
A chaplain is an in-person experience that comes to the workplace to meet the worker right where they are. Chaplains are trained, experienced professionals who break down barriers; build familiarity; break down stigma; and create approachability.
When an employee engages with a chaplain, the chaplain’s interaction with the employee is based on the fundamental foundation of care and building an authentic relationship. We know this works because, in our workplace chaplaincy program, between 50 to 110% of the workforce engage with their chaplain. Chaplains are not a 1-800 number. Chaplains are real people, meeting employees right where they are. (Curious how we can hit over 100%? It's due to our "Household Coverage" approach that reaches even beyond the individual employees. Keep reading for more information about Household Coverage.)
Chaplains leverage two primary tools in their work, the coach approach and community resources.
We believe that humans are built for community and so our work starts with a face-to-face engagement. From there, we seek to build up a support network of community resources around the worker. One of these resources is the EFAP, but there are many others in the community that help overcome the acute challenges, while offering a more robust support network for the future, in order to avoid crises to come.
The Coach Approach
The second tool is the coach approach.
We view every engagement in the workplace as an opportunity to achieve something better.
A chaplain engages with a worker, establishing the employee’s goals and discussing what success looks like in their personal and professional life, as well as any other aspect of their life including, for a vast majority, their spiritual life. The chaplain then works with the individual to set goals, develop strategies, and aim for more in their lives.
Helping workers identify what “better” looks like, a chaplain helps the employee to formulate what steps need to be taken, connecting them with the resources needed to achieve these goals.
This coach approach allows for a collaborative and growth-centred approach to numerous issues that arise in the workplace. From interpersonal issues leaking into the workplace, to dealing with workplace drama and conflicts that arise, the chaplain is a specialty ‘Swiss army knife’, able to do many things while attuned to their own limitations, always having a community resource to direct the worker to when needed.
A final and critical aspect of our workplace chaplaincy program is our focus on household coverage.
When a client brings us into the workplace, we include coverage for every employee and their households. We ensure that “households” is the defining characteristic rather than “family”. This is because non-traditional households are often met with exclusion articles in agreements, but the purpose of a chaplaincy program is to see as many Canadians as possible brought under the care of a chaplain.
It just so happens this value aligns strongly with research into what the emerging workforce cares about. When millennials were asked what they value most, 79% responded with family and 39% with friends. For a program to be relevant to the workers, it must value what the workers value—our coverage of the employee’s household, regardless of what form it takes and how far it deviates from the nuclear family, allows us to engage and extend our availability. It is not how a corporation looking solely at their bottom line would operate, but it is how we are able to ensure better outcomes for the employees under our care.
The Need for a Healthy and Strong Work Culture
When 32% of workers are leaving their job in the first 90 days because of a toxic work culture, and over 37% of the Canadian workforce could work from home, the need for a healthy and strong work culture is more important than ever.
Workplace chaplaincy is a way to better the lives of workers across Canada, in turn strengthening the workforce, while also providing a solid strategy for navigating and approaching the many challenges that the modern workplace faces with a rapidly evolving workforce.
As seen in “A Creative Solution Built Around Employee Needs”, workplace chaplaincy offers a robust vaccination effect for mental health struggles in the workplace and provides a cost-effective offering to a workforce that expects more from their employer, a workforce that seeks to be valued for not just what they do but who they are.
If you are a business owner, or worker and feel that what your workplace is missing is a chaplain/cappellani, someone available to get into the crisis and chaos of life, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are passionate about the workforce in Canada and want to see lives transformed through holistic wellness.
If this blog has engaged you, we want to invite you to the official rebrand and relaunch of our chaplaincy program.We have a storied 20 year history and it all gets a new look which will be first revealed at an online virtual reveal event on April 27, 2023. You are invited to join us for this event at 7:00pm PST for a 30 minute reveal of the new branding which encompasses the 1700 years of history into a new package to reach the emerging Canadian Workforce. See you there! https://outreach.ca/betterworkplace
Jonathan Kraft is a millennial who is passionate about workplace wellness in Canada and seeing the lives of workers transformed, brought out of crisis and survival mode, into thriving members of their community, family, and their workforce.
Resource for More Information on Working Millennials: The truth about working with Millennials | Randstad Canada