Evidence-based actions for psychological competencies and demands

These actions and responses can be implemented with a minimal investment of resources or cost to the organization.

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A 2021 survey of 5,500 working Canadians by Mental Health Research Canada found that only 39% of respondents feel their employer has prepared them for the psychological demands of their job. (Mental Health Research Canada, 2021) 

These strategies and resources can help ensure your employees are prepared for the psychological competencies and demands their role may require. 

Description: In a work environment where psychological competencies and demands are not a health risk, employees are continually supported to meet the psychological demands of their position. 

You can access our free workshop materials to engage your team in a discussion about how they can best deal with their job-related emotional and psychological demands. 

Consider interpersonal and emotional competencies, technical skills and knowledge in hiring and promotion decisions. 

  • Interview for interpersonal competencies, including the ability to foster and maintain healthy working relationships, especially for leadership positions. Strong emotional intelligence can contribute to psychologically safe leadership strategies.
    • The ability to manage emotions and relationships, and to effectively solve interpersonal problems at work, is relevant for positions responsible for supervising or supporting others.  
    • The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction provides an Interviewing template | PDF to help adapt for your hiring or promotion approach.  
    • www.positivepsychology.com has interview questions that focus on emotional intelligence.
  • Ask team members to list the most relevant people skills for a team or leadership position, and their reasons. You should have this input before recruiting. This information may also help identify existing team dynamics that should be addressed.  
  • Give guidelines for evaluating the psychological competencies an applicant needs for the specific position.  
  • Make sure the expectation that every employee must contribute to a psychologically safe workplace is part of your orientation process.  
    • Employees' role in psychological health and safety is a free resource that can help you do this and track completion. 
    • Provide ongoing feedback, training and support during the probationary period for new hires. There are resources to make onboarding more effective. For example, the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. offers this toolkit for Onboarding newcomers | PDF. It offers strategies that can help all new employees. 
  • Let employees explore internal positions that may better match their interpersonal and emotional competencies, when possible. This can include job-shadowing or career-development discussions.  
    • Use this 1:1 template| PDF to help start a conversation. 
    • Once created, allow potential candidates to review the detailed competency requirements.  

Ensure job descriptions include accurate psychological demands. 

  • Make required interpersonal and emotional competencies part of all job descriptions. Ask employees already in these jobs to review and confirm that these competencies are accurate and complete. 

Review organizational policies and processes from a trauma-informed lens. 

  • The information in Trauma in organizations can help reduce the negative mental health effects from exposure to both expected and unexpected traumatic incidents at work. 

Help each employee develop and maintain the psychological competencies they need for the changing demands of their position. 

  • Review the psychological demands of the job regularly with each employee. Ensure that any risks or threats to psychological safety are identified and mitigated. 
  • Prepare employees to handle both the usual and the less familiar psychological demands of the job. For example, those who deal with the public such as librarians, bus drivers, baristas or store clerks may need to deal with someone who’s violent. While this may only happen occasionally, it’s a possibility. We can more confidently face unexpected events when we’re prepared. 
  • Conduct regular and collaborative performance evaluations with constructive feedback about interpersonal and emotional behaviour.  
  • Refer to Performance management for tips on how to do this. 

Offer ongoing opportunities to develop social and emotional skills for leaders and employees. 

  • Social and emotional skills are part of lifelong learning and evolve with our circumstances, including our job demands. While formal training programs may be effective, they can also be expensive and time consuming. Share information that’s available for free online and in your community. Here are a few ideas:  
    • Team activities help build resilience and emotional intelligence.  
      • Building stronger teams gives strategies and information that can help employees: 
        • Respond more effectively to workplace stressors 
        • Help resolve issues 
        • Support each other  
    • Develop a culture in which emotional intelligence is understood and valued, and make it a criterion for: 
    • Provide ongoing training in interpersonal and emotional skills – particularly those needed for highly demanding positions.  
    • Talk about how values are aligned with each employee’s role by taking the top 3 to 6 results from a Personal values assessment.  Identify and understand how personal values can impact stress at work.  You could do this with the team activity Identify your values
    • Discuss your organization’s professional values with employees. This can help them better understand how their values contribute to their work, and how they differ from others.  If we are aware of the values of others, we also have a better understanding of their behaviours. Whenever someone is required to compromise their values at work, it can lead to stress and conflict. 
      • Fill out the work values test.  
      • Once values are established, discuss how you can improve alignment in the workplace. 

Additional actions and resources  

Putting psychological competencies and demands on the agenda provides you with materials to support a team discussion on approaches to psychological competencies and demands as well as materials to support policy review and development.

Adapted from Guarding Minds at Work™

© Samra, J., Gilbert, M., Shain, M., Bilsker, D. 2009-2020, with amendments by Stuart, H. 2022.  All rights reserved. Website development and data storage by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Guarding Minds at Work was commissioned by Canada Life and additional resources are supported by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

Contributors include.articlesDan BilskerDavid K. MacDonaldDr. Heather StuartDr. Joti SamraDr. Martin ShainMary Ann BayntonMerv GilbertPhilip PerczakSarah JennerSusan JakobsonWorkplace Safety and Prevention ServicesWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021Workplace Strategies team 2022 to present

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