WHAT THE ORGANIZATION WAS FACING
Verizon Media’s focus on workplace mental health began with the formation of their Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2016. It created a safe space for employees with mental health or neurodiverse experiences as well as their allies to connect and support one another. Within the first year, the ERG grew to 250 employees across 26 chapters.
Verizon Media’s CEO Guru Gowrappan reinforced this employee-led momentum by being a strong and vocal supporter of mental health and the ERG. Under his leadership, the company explored a variety of other mental health programs and activities including expert panels for World Suicide Prevention Day, a fireside chat with employees, personal storytelling by employees, and external partnerships with organizations like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
As the conversation grew, leaders were eager to align around a cohesive strategy for workplace mental health, better understand their role, and learn best practices to create that community of support for mental health organization-wide. As Senior Manager of Global Communications Pam Lasner (who led and organized many of Verizon Media’s mental health events and activities) shared, “You only start to see change when all of leadership is driving the same direction.”
In 2018-2019, Pam immersed herself in the workplace mental health space, hoping to identify experts and leading organizations who could take Verizon Media’s existing mental health activities to the next level. She was connected to Mind Share Partners through a colleague and later attended Mind Share Partners’ Mental Health at Work 2019 Conference. Feeling inspired and knowing Mind Share Partners’ focus on leaders and culture change, she saw an ideal opportunity for partnership.
WHAT WE PROVIDED
Mind Share Partners provided a 90-minute Executive Session for Verizon Media’s CEO Guru Gowrappan, executive team, and extended leadership team, as well as discovery conversations and leader ally coaching. The session leveraged the latest research to equip leadership with concrete strategies and provide a forum to discuss how best to support their teams and the organization. Guru kicked off the session with a personal message and welcome remarks.
Topics covered included:
Understanding mental health and its impact in the workplace
The unique role of leaders in catalyzing and sustaining a culture for mental health across the organization
Activities to define initial goals and create a shared commitment for leaders to implement moving forward
“I really valued the ongoing conversations prior to the executive session, where Mind Share Partners took the time to understand what Verizon Media’s needs were, knowing that this was going to be a thoughtful and productive conversation that our leaders found to be candid and engaging. I appreciated Mind Share Partners’ preparedness in setting up a session that would satisfy their needs and open their eyes, too.”
- Pam Lasner, Senior Manager of Global Communications
Mind Share Partners’ executive session helped align Verizon Media’s most senior leaders around the growing internal momentum for workplace mental health and equipped them with tangible strategies to continue developing the culture around mental health as leaders.
Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan wrote about the session in his weekly, company-wide email. Many leaders reached out to their teams to communicate their support for mental health, and expressed a desire to take the training content to their respective teams to continue the conversation. “I could see how committed leaders were to [workplace mental health following the executive session]; specifically. [They were] very open and receptive to the things they can change right away as well as the things they could strive to do long-term.”
The executive session took place shortly before the shelter-in-place policies that were instituted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Pam shared that as a direct result of the executive session, leaders felt more prepared for how they managed their teams’ mental health in the new environment:
“As I was watching our leaders go through [the executive session], I could see that this is something I’m going to see the effects of down the road in what they talk about, how they show up, and how they applied their learnings to their own respective spheres of influence.
If they had not gone through that session, there might have been more education that would have needed to be done, but last-minute and with urgency. You don’t know when a crisis will hit, and our leaders felt prepared to show up for their teams as a result of the executive session.”
Looking forward, Verizon Media will continue to identify the best practices, tools, and initiatives to create a more diverse, supportive, and inclusive work environment.