Investing in rising talent is a mental wellness must

Investing in rising talent is a mental wellness must

The benefits of structured training go beyond acquiring ‘hard skills’ for rising talent and their employers.

Are you investing in your early-career staff members?

The benefits of training, both for rising talent and their employers, go well beyond the acquisition of the “hard” skills needed for the role at hand, although of course this is important.

And these wider benefits are something I’ve been reflecting on recently, as Nabs comes to the close of this year’s Fast Forward training programme.

We’ve been running the course since 1999, after it was established by industry giant Jeremy Bullmore as a course on pitching, with delegates coming together to respond to a real-life brief that they would then present to a panel of illustrious judges.

We have been joined this year by 53 brilliant delegates, each one brimming with potential that they hopefully now feel they can realise after weeks of intensive training.

On the Fast Forward launch night, at which our delegates heard from their client GambleAware, I was struck by delegates’ passion and motivation, with their post-brief questions demonstrating the kind of curiosity and knowledge that we absolutely as an industry want to foster. Their subsequent pitches were seriously impressive.

Focus on mental wellness

Learning to pitch is still the nub of the course. These days, however, we’ve expanded its remit. We now view the course, as we do with all of our services, through the prism of mental wellness.

We acknowledge that pitching can be stressful and, throughout the programme, delegates are provided with tips on managing mental wellness.

From the start of the six-week course, we get delegates thinking about how to support themselves, those around them and how they can reach out for support. We encourage delegates to check in with themselves throughout and to contact their course mentors or Nabs if they need a listening ear.

It’s been clear to me that delegates have also profited from the course in other ways that have boosted their mental wellness.

They’ve formed new connections and expanded their network. Social connections, of course, have been proven in many studies to boost mental wellness. The delegates also get the boost of knowing that their bosses have invested in them by choosing them for the course — a healthy dose of recognition that’s good for the soul, self-esteem and motivation.

These benefits have wonderfully positive and long-lasting effects. So much so that some of our delegates return later as course mentors with brilliant careers.

Feeling unseen

Unfortunately, we know from our recent community consultation, All Ears, that many young people in our industry do not feel trained or invested in, or even seen in the room. What’s more, these employees may feel unable to get support for mental wellness at work. In total, 35% of our respondents would worry about disclosing mental-health challenges in their workplace.

These elements combined can lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction at work and even serious mental-health challenges. Recent research from the Resource Foundation found that workers in their twenties are more likely to be out of work from ill health than those in their forties.

Hybrid working impacts the situation further, as early careers won’t have face time with senior leaders who they could learn from. As one All Ears respondent shared: “Hybrid working is making it harder; you don’t learn on the job, it means you’re not picking up skills, so younger workers’ confidence levels are low and contribution is impacted.”

We collectively need to do all we can to turn this situation around and training is a key tactic that we can employ. And, actually, hybrid working has presented us with an opportunity here, highlighting the urgency and importance of structured training. As another research respondent told us, relying on learning via osmosis alone was lazy — an intentional approach to training is what’s needed.

Investing in training our up-and-coming talent is critical. Yet many of our industry’s rising stars aren’t getting the structured training that they deserve and they’re suffering professionally and emotionally as a result.

Let’s band together as an industry to fix that. To register your early-careers talent for Fast Forward 2025, click here.

Uzma Afridi is principal business psychologist at Nabs

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