Chris Smedley Interview – From McDonalds To Mental Health: Becoming A CEO

Arete Podcast with Richard Triggs

Dec 19
Chris Smedley Interview - From McDonalds To Mental Health Becoming A CEO EOA

There’s a lot of stigma around mental health in the workplace and while awareness around the issue is growing, Chris Smedley, CEO of Assure Programs, told me there’s still some way to go.

Assure Programs is an Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) provider and one of the largest mental health organisations in Australia.

Originally from the UK, Chris has worked across a broad range of industries from manufacturing and retail, to financial management and health insurance, before moving into a CEO role at Assure Programs.

The company specialises in workplace mental health, including EAPs, critical instances and trauma response, and manager and leader support. In addition, it carries out organisational development programs for team behavioural change and awareness.

Chris says Assures Programs’ services are lot more proactive and holistic than your average EAP, providing confidential counselling on a one-to-one for any work-related or personal issues.

In this episode: 

  • Chris’ current professional responsibilities at Assure Programs

  • The services that Assure Programs offer

  • Why Chris thinks mental health is being taken more seriously throughout Australia and the world

  • The factors driving increasing awareness and reducing stigma around mental health in the workplace

  • Chris works with both large corporations and small and medium businesses

  • Assure Programs team - 110 people, 2/3 are psychologists, 900 associate psychologists

  • Where it all began for Chris - born in Greece, grew up in the UK, one older sister

  • Chris’ degree in engineering - a result of following “narrow-minded careers advisors’ advice”

  • Moving into the business side of things - working for PwC, Rexham, Kingfisher, AXA, Bupa

  • How Chris met his wife, backpacking around the world and moving to Australia

  • Work-related issues vs personal issues

  • Moving to Australia - working for AXA and then Bupa

  • How Chris managed to move between different industries

  • Becoming a General Manager for Bupa in Queensland - the challenges and successes

  • What Chris did to move into a CEO role - developing his technical skills without an MBA

  • Getting the role at Assure Programs and Chris’ mandate for the new role

  • Three years into the role - Chris’ key achievements so far

  • Growing the revenue by 50% over 3 years - a team effort

  • The importance of increasing employee engagement

  • Creating a ‘virtuous circle’ - make your employees happy = make your customers happy = a happy business

  • Growing market share in a growing market - the challenge is to reinvest enough

  • Where Chris sees himself going - continuing with Assure Programs, diversifying in the market

  • Chris’ hobbies outside of work - camping, travelling, family time, cooking and switching off

“Whether mental health issues are work-related or not, they can really take away from the engagement and productivity of a workforce. If you’re a leader of an organisation, that’s a big issue.” - Chris Smedley #MentalHealth #AretePodcast

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