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22 April 2024

Stress Awareness Month: Supporting the development of mental toughness (MT) is key


Focusing on the health and wellbeing of our employees is one of the pillars of our Social Value Strategy.  In support of this, Hippo recently conducted a three month research pilot to investigate whether introducing coaching on mental toughness and burnout could have a meaningful positive impact on client facing employees’ wellbeing; increasing their ability to manage and deal with the everyday stresses of delivery and consulting. In this blog we share our findings.

A key challenge for many consultancy organisations is the rise of workplace stress and burnout. Burnout can occur when employees experience a prolonged exposure to stresses at work, with symptoms including exhaustion, disengagement and inefficacy. The pressures and demands often created by working in a different environment or where the employee may have an experience gap can all contribute to the ability of consultants in managing the potential heightened stress of their project and daily responsibilities.

“We are committed to supporting our people and helping consultants in developing the tools, resources and skills in being able to manage the demands of working in a professional services business – my hope is the MTQ can help our employees flourish in their role and have a meaningful impact on their well-being.” 

– Jonty Gibson, Director of Professions, Hippo

Fifteen consultants from product and delivery professions embarked on a three-month coaching program where mental toughness and burnout measurements were taken pre and post-program. Each participant was paired with a personal coach who was equipped with the coaching report generated by the MTQ48. Mental Toughness was measured using the 48-item Mental Toughness Questionnaire (MTQ48), which measured total mental toughness and its eight subcomponents: learning orientation, risk orientation, achievement orientation, goal orientation, emotional control, life control, interpersonal confidence, and confidence in ability.

The MTQ assessments and reports were created with the support of AQR International, a leading innovator in psychometric assessment and management training. Its approach to MTQ allows participants to identify the nature of their challenges and sources of stress, understand their own individual strengths in dealing with stressors and implement techniques and plans to build mental toughness, with the ultimate goal of optimising performance and wellbeing.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say about their experience of the MTQ coaching program:

“Before participating in the MTQ coaching my biggest challenge was regaining my confidence. I had a rough project prior to starting the MTQ that really hit my confidence and prevented me from taking risks. I felt like I didnt know a thing about my role or everything I was doing wasn’t up to par so I didn’t want to share it with my project or with Hippo. I didn’t want to take risks because I felt that what I would bring to the table wasn’t going to be valuable.

Since taking part in the MTQ coaching I have gained back my confidence and I am self assured enough that I am willing to take risks and be able to cope with any feedback I receive positive or negative in a constructive way.

I work out in the open more. Happily share my work for feedback to be provided. I volunteer more in the community and in my project and know that I do have value to contribute to both.”

– Rachel Stansfield, Business Analyst, Hippo

“For people that are considering receiving coaching at Hippo, I would say make time for it. The MTQ, which focuses on mental toughness, works to help avoid burnout and to identify areas such as control, commitment, confidence, and challenges that you may want to give some attention to. It provides a starting point to understand yourself better, and areas to develop and explore along with your coach. 

Having the time to talk through these areas with someone who is dedicating their time for you is invaluable. Personally, I think receiving coaching has helped me in my interpersonal skills, my mindset when approaching new work, and strategies and techniques that may not seem directly linked to work itself, but that overall have helped my mental toughness and wellbeing.”

– Lizzie Moran, Intermediate Business Analyst, Hippo

The research pilot identified a statistically significant relationship between mental toughness and burnout. Three out of the four constructs of mental toughness exhibited statistically significant changes post-coaching. This indicates a positive impact on key elements such as confidence, control, and challenge. Finally, a significant statistical difference was observed in the exhaustion subscale of burnout before and after the coaching intervention.

“Using our team of internal coaches we are now offering this programme more widely within Hippo, working closely with our managers to identify those where this will create the greatest impact for both consultants, and also our support teams. We are expecting high levels of engagement in the programme following the success of the pilot and we are also excited that this will also help continue to grow and develop the skills of our coaches too.”

– Helen Croft, Head of People, Operations and Development, Hippo

If you’re interested in seeing the full research on this study, please get in touch