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Case Study: ATB Financial
The Working Mind an important component in delivering on the organization’s stated purpose: “Making It possible for all Albertans.”
Leaders Trained So Far: 800+
Team Members Trained So Far: 200+
ATB Financial is a financial institution and crown corporation wholly owned by the Province of Alberta. Originally established as Alberta Treasury Branches in 1938, ATB Financial operates primarily in Alberta and provides financial services to over 770,000 Alberta residents and businesses. ATB’s focus on mental health within the organization and its externally focused Greater Good strategy makes The Working Mind (TWM) an important component in delivering on the organization’s stated purpose: “Making It possible for all Albertans.”
Why We Train Our Staff In TWM
In 2012, ATB noticed an increase in employee claims related to mental health. In order to ensure the overall well-being of their employees, they began looking deeper into wellness in general, with a particular focus on physical, mental, and women’s health. This led ATB to develop a comprehensive wellness strategy, including a cohesive mental health strategy.
During the course of ATB’s research, they noticed their metrics around absenteeism and short- and long-term disability were trending up. Mental illness was one of the most cited reasons for both short- and long-term disability claims.
“Of the most prominent reasons why people are off, we could see that mental health was often at the top of the list,” said Kerilee Snatenchuk, Director of People and Culture at ATB. “We became deeply curious about how this problem might be addressed.”
At the time, the team at ATB was looking at integrating training into a bigger strategy of general awareness, stigma reduction, and taking action to improve mental well-being.
Snatenchuk explained that ATB’s “strategic approach gave us an opportunity to look into what would be the best way to address mental health problems. As an organization, we're often looking for unique and cutting-edge ways that we could do this. In terms of mental health promotion, we were always pushing ourselves to take a few risks, to look a little deeper, and to do something with impact.”
From 2012 to 2016 ATB laid the groundwork that would help their team members gain access to mental health resources and training, while also looking for new and innovative ways to ensure the psychological safety of each and every team member.
“If we were going to reduce stigma and the number of mental-health-related claims and sick days, all of which were clearly important issues, then we needed to have some way to have conversations about mental health,” she said. “So, it was around that time that we looked at the different kinds of training available.”
In 2016, ATB enrolled in The Working Mind (TWM), an evidence-based program designed to promote mental health and reduce stigma, which was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Since 2016, ATB has trained over 800 leaders and over 200 team members across Alberta in TWM.
“The results were very telling – the reduction in stigma, the reduction in concern about having a conversation, and the increase in interest and knowledge around self-care,” Snatenchuk said. “All of these metrics improved when we tested it during those initial sessions. We made a commitment to deliver TWM to all leaders in the organization.”
ATB Financial shared that those individuals who have gone through the training feel more confident in their knowledge about self-care and in their ability to have difficult conversations about mental health with others.
“It’s so empowering when you see people in these sessions and you’re having those conversations,” added Mark McConnell, Corporate Wellness Manager at ATB Financial. “You almost see the light bulb go on where it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness! This is an opportunity. This is how I can help my team and help myself.’ Because it’s not just something that you leave at work. This is something that you’re empowered to do in all aspects of your life, which is phenomenal.”
The team has noticed that team members are showing more signs of motivation and happiness, and report improved and more consistent mental well-being, even throughout the recent pandemic.
“We have seen folks who have taken the training and are using other resources. Through our resilience training with adversity, InkBlot therapy, and The Working Mind training, we’re seeing that people are coping well during the pandemic,” said Snatenchuk.
To ensure leaders and staff were able to have difficult conversations about mental health with each other, ATB introduced a conversation template that could be customized.
“People started to use this template and then they started to have the mental health conversations they weren’t having before, and that worked well for us,” Snatenchuk explained. “Mental health was improved because our leaders were very engaged in the conversation about this difficult subject, and they had the confidence to actually have conversations with each other and with employees.”
Allen Metke, Everyday Advisor & Trainer for The Working Mind, explained that with the help of TWM, alongside ATB’s various mental health initiatives, the organization has also noticed an increase in inclusive behaviors and a reduction in stigma.
“The Working Mind has allowed us to really dive into our diversity and inclusion efforts. When we talk about the difference between things like prejudice and stigma and racism and realize the impact that words can have, we come to understand how what we do and say on a day-to-day basis can affect somebody else,” Metke shared. “With ATB, the amazing thing is that we know it’s not enough to just go through the training. We constantly talk about it, and we’re making sure that mental health awareness isn’t something that goes by the wayside.”
McConnell added that through TWM the team has been given a framework to speak about mental health, and regardless of whether everyone has taken the course or not, the whole organization knows about the Mental Health Continuum.
“I think TWM helps create that common framework for having mental health conversations,” he said. “Things like compassion fatigue and burnout, these are part of the frontline worker’s experience. But these outcomes are not uncommon in the financial industry either.”
What the Future Holds
Alongside TWM, ATB has had two other major campaigns to promote mental health awareness: Not Myself at Work and National Depression Screening Day during Mental Illness Awareness Week.
“The way to support mental health can’t just start with self-care. It has to start with all of us caring for each other,” said McConnell. “Training like The Working Mind, how we talk about mental health, how we create space for one another, in all our varied backgrounds, all of this matters.”
Through continued integration of their mental health strategy with diversity, equity, and inclusion, ATB is confident they will continue to reduce stigma and create an even safer work environment, where team members can feel a strong sense of belonging.
“The Working Mind is certainly part of a package of tools and resources that we provide to team members,” said Snatenchuk. “What I want someone to take away is that it’s a very complex puzzle with pieces that come together to make ATB one of the top places to work, with a great culture, a culture of awareness, and action around total health.”
In the future, ATB believes that people will be empowered to do more for themselves and learn more through a quantitative metric that will allow them to help themselves in all kinds of situations.
“My vision for mental health is that all Albertans have access to great mental health tools and resources and that Alberta is the most mentally healthy place in the world,” she said. “We'll start with Alberta and go to the rest of Canada and then beyond.”
To learn more about TWM and how you can introduce it into your business, click here.