A leader in treating pre-teens, teens and young adults facing individual, family, and mental health challenges, Embark Behavioral Health has successfully served thousands of families since its first program began more than 25 years ago.
That help is needed more than ever. The number of self-injury and suicide cases among 5- to 17-year-olds rose 45 percent in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That prompted the group to declare a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health.
“Our company’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is to take today’s all-time high rates of adolescent and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide and bring them to all-time lows by 2028,” says Landon Kirk, chief people officer at Embark. “Our core purpose is to create joy and heal generations.”
Embark’s leaders knew that in order to achieve their business goals, they must also look after their own employees’ well-being, including quickly addressing warning signs such as compassion fatigue and burnout. “The work that we do can take an emotional toll,” says Kirk, who has spent 16 years with the organization, including the past six years in his current role. “Our people have big hearts, so the work can be challenging at times.”
We use Peakon and other data points to identify factors of burnout, compassion fatigue, and even flight risk so we can be proactive.Chief People Officer
Embracing the values of today’s workforce
Seeking better ways to ensure employees could get the help they need, Embark adopted the Workday Peakon Employee Voice intelligent listening platform in 2016. Using Peakon Employee Voice, Embark can collect and analyze feedback from employees in real time, providing insights in areas including engagement, sentiment, productivity, and health and well-being.
Peakon Employee Voice also gives Embark the ability to align with the values of today’s employees, something Kirk describes as essential.
“Our workforce is changing,” Kirk says. “I’m seeing transparency, communication, appreciation, recognition, and growth opportunities as huge values for our current employees. You have to be in tune with the values they have to be a valued place to work.”
Kirk says Embark soon began seeing other benefits. Managers had newfound access to the challenges their employees were facing and could take immediate action to address them, which improved employee engagement.
“The feedback’s not delayed, so that’s huge,” Kirk says. “It’s not 30 days later, or 90 days later. It’s instant, and that’s just a profound change for us…and for our employees to hear a response so soon.”
Identifying trends in employee satisfaction
Kirk says Embark values using employee net promoter scores (eNPS), one of the more well-known tools companies use to measure engagement. The metric allows managers to know how employees feel and what they need, and helps identify reasons some employees might be thinking about leaving. “Peakon shares that philosophy, so that was a natural fit for us,” he says. “It just helps us know where to help and where to focus. We see eNPS as a leading indicator of the employee health at the program.”
Peakon Employee Voice’s fully automated and personalized surveys, following the eNPS model, include questions such as how likely employees are to recommend their organization as a place to work and the level of satisfaction they feel with their work.
Embark’s managers can then see how employees respond to those questions over time to determine what trends they’re seeing. Are things improving? Are changes needed? In what areas, specifically?
Helping pinpoint managers who need help
Managers also see benefits. That’s because Embark can quickly identify those who might need help based on feedback collected from the surveys. The surveys can more easily distinguish areas where managers face challenges and why.
“We’ve seen Peakon identify some of these young or developing managers who might be feeling overwhelmed,” Kirk says. “That’s feedback we can use to provide more support in onboarding, training, and manager development. It’s very effective.”
Managers can also compare one-on-one conversations with employees to the survey data to see if anything seems amiss and then address it. “If everybody’s checking in emotionally strong in the one-on-one, but you’re seeing a difference in the survey data, that’s an opportunity for managers to look into it further,” Kirk says. “That’s an opportunity to bring about greater congruence, transparency and openness.”
It’s been wonderful to see the impact that the work has on the personal lives and the mental health of our employees. If you put your heart and your mind into the work, the benefits are enormous.
Chief People Officer
Fulfilling company’s purpose
With the tools to ensure his staff feels valued and listened to, Kirk is confident Embark can accomplish its BHAG: reducing adolescent and young adult anxiety, depression and suicide to all-time lows.
“We feel like we can only do that if we’re increasing awareness about these issues, lowering the stigma, and of course, creating access to mental health treatment,” he says.
Kirk is proud of the work his employees have done toward achieving that goal. Though they face challenges such as compassion fatigue, Kirk also notes the benefits employees realize from helping others.
“One of the joys in my career here has been the realization that the mental health of our employees improves from doing mental health work,” he says. “It’s been wonderful to see the benefit the work has on the well-being of everyone involved.”