In 2019, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Twitter as their global head of employee wellness after a two-year stint at Facebook as a consulting psychologist, which was my first role in the corporate world. I was originally trained as a licensed clinical psychologist and practiced for 10 years before making this shift. Over the course of my tenure at Twitter, I have come to see that my previous life as a clinician, scientist, and professor has been incredibly valuable to the company, and I would encourage all companies to consider hiring healthcare professionals in HR roles for several reasons.
When I started at Twitter, I was coming in with a brand new role with a few wellness initiatives created by our benefits team. I hit the ground running and I began to conceptualize a wellness program based on both relationship building (something therapists tend to be highly skilled at) and qualitative data analysis (which comes with Ph.D. coursework). Clinical psychologists have a lot of experience working with people and even diagnosing problems in group and team dynamics, which can make them incredibly effective at defining problems for leadership. I began to conduct focus groups to better understand the employee experience, which as a previous group therapist, was very easy for me to facilitate and make people feel comfortable sharing their experiences. This allowed me to start testing out new programs and workshops based on that feedback.
"Mental health has taken a huge spotlight with COVID-19, and employees take great comfort in knowing that a licensed professional is looking after their well-being"
Teaching as a Subject Matter Expert
Clinical psychologists spend a lot of their time teaching. We teach clients about their behavior in relation to psychological theories. We teach university students a variety of topics as a part of our graduate training or work experience. For instance, I’ve taught courses in career-decision making, child psychology, and even clinical diagnosis. We teach physicians and medical professionals on how to convince their patients to take their medications. While I have been figuring out the long-term development of my employee wellness program, I have been able to teach courses to employees on resilience, occupational burnout, peer support basics, and other areas of well-being. It is also a way of getting direct face time with my co-workers, and to hear directly more about the problems they are facing in their work and personal life in relation to what I am teaching them. If they have a question, they know I will always be there for them as opposed to an outside facilitator they may never work with again.
Presence as a Priority
Every time I introduce myself to employees who have just onboarded and are meeting me for the first time, they are impressed with Twitter. That's right, they are impressed with Twitter, as a company, for having someone in my role The statement about the priority of employee wellness that can be made with a clinical psychologist or a physician expresses true caring to many employees. Mental health has taken a huge spotlight with COVID-19, and employees take great comfort in knowing that a licensed professional is looking after their well-being and it is more impactful than you would think.
While I run the employee wellness program, I am often pulled in for one-time or routine consultations within the company, usually around the aspect of mental health. Imagine if your employee relations team could talk to a clinical psychologist as they work through a difficult case with an employee who has a mental health condition. Or imagine your security team would like a brief training on how to handle employees who are at risk of hurting themselves. The amount of times an employee or an organization within the company has approached me about a consultation has been astonishing and welcomed. Not only am I helping another team solve a problem, but I am building a relationship with them that will continue to affect their engagement in future wellness programs.
While I know not every company can afford to have a clinical psychologist on staff or even need one full-time, we are helpful as part-time consultants, workshop facilitators, and determining the mental health needs of your organizations. If you can, hiring someone on your team who does not necessarily have a background in HR, but does have a strong healthcare background can be an invaluable asset to any organization, and the potential uses for them are limitless.