Investing in Your Human Capital with Laura Bechard

Does your organization scoff at the price of investing in the mental health and wellness of your employees? It happens often but yet when you look at the numbers, there’s a big advantage to making the investment.

Just ask Laura Bechard, founder of ProVision Business Advisors, an organization that works with business owners who want to create more work-life balance–for themselves and their teams. On this week’s episode, we talk about the valuable resource of human capital and why investing in them can increase the valuation of your organization.

And there are so many ways to do this in a way that’s flexible for employees and reduces risk for the company, on top of creating some really great perks for scouting new team members!

Listen in and learn more!

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About Laura Bechard:

Laura Bechard, CPA, MBA, M Ed is an experienced business, learning and certified change management professional with a unique background that combines finances and people. ProVision Business Advisors is committed to helping leaders align their human resource initiatives with the organization’s strategic goals. As a Certified Exit Planning Advisor, Laura specializes in building valuable businesses, helping leaders effectively examine human performance constraints, identify performance improvement initiatives and more effectively communicate the ROI on investment in people.

The impact on financial performance and in accelerating the value of the organization provides the business case to support human resource initiatives. Laura’s career has provided her with experience in public and private sectors; large global companies and small businesses. Laura enjoys taking in adventures with friends and family and loves to bake. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Mentioned In This Episode:



people, organization, burnout, business, employees, laura, mental health, investing, conversations, owner, roi, performance, support, benefits, health, workplace, impact, flexibility, minutes, learning


Laura Bechard, Lindsay Recknell

Lindsay Recknell  00:00

Welcome to season four of mental health in minutes. The podcast where we normalize mental health conversations at work, and share the strategies and tactics that make those conversations ones you actually want to have. I’m your host, Lindsay Recknell, the psychological health and safety advisor, a workplace mental health consultant, a speaker, facilitator and an expert in hope. If you’re listening to this episode, you know, our people need us more than ever, and I know you want to support them, but maybe you don’t know the words to use to engage them in conversation, or how to respond when they do open up. That’s what this podcast is all about. My guests will share tactical, practical and simple ways to connect with your people. Let them know you care about them and are there to support them and believe in them enough to continue investing in their career and personal development. Each episode we’ll also discuss the future of mental health in the workplace, and the top ways we can engage our leadership in the workplace mental health conversation, and have them endorse and pay for a positive culture shift within our organization. It’s hard to put into words but the first three seasons have meant to me as a workplace mental health professional. I am honored to learn from my guests and walk alongside them as they solve some of the biggest issues faced in their organizations today. One of these issues, dare I say the biggest issue I hear from leaders right now is that they end there people are suffering from burnout is syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress. Burnout is very personal to me. The first time I experienced burnout was November of 2017. And this experience started me on the path to learning everything I could about burnout and what I could do to prevent, especially at work, be assured you can stop the slide. Burnout is not forever, and you do have the power to come back from the edge of burnout, you and your people. I’ve included a few simple strategies and tactics in my free training tryout package of materials you can download for free right now from my website at mental health in Forward slash tryout. without too much effort on your part, you can get started engaging with your team and teaching them to stop the slide into burnout for themselves. Included in this training tryout, you’ll find two different lengths of presentations, a 15 minute and a five minute version, as well as the speaker’s notes for each along with a quick training video and a checklist to help you get started. Easy peasy. Just go dude mental health in minutes comm forward slash tryout and download your free copy now. I’ll also link to the download in the show notes of this episode. Let me know how it goes. One of the objections I ran into while doing the work of bringing mental health into the workplace is related to cost. Way too often, leaders and organizations are trying to equate the benefits of doing this work to a simple math calculation. And it’s not serving any of us to think that way. There’s a real dollars and cents cost benefit to elevating the employee experience in your workplace. And this week’s guest has so much to share in this topic. So without further ado, let me introduce her to you. Laura Burchard is an experienced business learning and certified change management professional with a unique background that combines finances and people with their education as a certified professional accountant and MBA and a master’s in education. Her company provision Business Advisors is committed to helping leaders align their human resource initiatives with their organization’s strategic goals. As a certified Exit Planning advisor. Laura specializes in building valuable businesses helping leaders effectively examine human performance constraints, identify performance improvement initiatives, and more effectively communicate the ROI on investment in people. The impact on financial performance and in accelerating the value of the organization provides the business case to support human resource initiatives. Laura’s career has provided her with experience in public and private sectors, large global companies and small businesses. When she’s not working, Laura enjoys taking in adventures with her friends and family and loves to bake. So much to learn from Laura. So let’s get to our discussion. Hello, Laura. Welcome to the show. Hi, Laura.

Laura Bechard  03:47

Great to be here.

Lindsay Recknell  03:48

I am so happy to have this conversation with you, I think you will have such a cool and interesting perspective on mental health at work and how we can really take advantage of some of the I don’t know, processes, accounting, treatments, governance, that kind of stuff on really maximizing the potential impact of this work. So I’m really, really looking forward to this conversation. But maybe we’ll start by can you share with the audience who you are and what you do?

Laura Bechard  04:17

Yeah, my name is Laura Bechard and the founder of pro Vision Business Advisors. So in addition to having this boutique consulting firm in Calgary and my mom to four adult children, I have worked in the public sector, the private sector and now have my own consulting firm. So I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. I’m certified in Exit Planning value acceleration is what I’m sort of talking to you today about. And I’ve also done a lot of work with helping helping managers and owners of professional service firms accelerate their ROI on the on their investment in human in human and human capital.

Lindsay Recknell  04:54

And I absolutely want to talk about investing in our human capital. You know, it’s it’s been a bonus over the last last couple of years that people are more and more willing to have these kinds of conversations at work, and I’m seeing trends that organizations are investing in the mental health of their of their people. But there are still folks out there that don’t recognize the ROI. And I wonder, could you share a little bit about in your experience, what, how we can really get that ROI out of doing this kind of work?

Laura Bechard  05:24

Yeah, it’s a it’s one of my favorite conversations to have with folks that are in the in the soft skill world, I’ll say, when I was earlier in my career, and I was working as in learning as a learning measurement specialists, that that was a conversation, we had a lot of how do we actually demonstrate the ROI on the investment in learning on the investment in developing individuals. So whether it’s with mental health, or its leadership skills, or its technical training, a lot of the business units would see those investments as expenses rather than seeing them really as investments. And part of that was how we as you know, HR business partners, or learning business partners, how we frame the conversation and how we frame the ROI on that investment. And you know, as a as a farmer, I, the analogy I often draw is between dirt and soil, like from the outside, it looks the same, it’s that black matter sitting over in the corner, but if your perception of that black matter is dirt, you’re more likely to put it in the trash bin, then you are to collect it carefully and put it into your garden or your soil bed, if you recognize that it is it is it is really nutrients and fodder to, to grow to grow more valuable fruits and vegetables or whatever you’re growing as a farmer. And that’s the same kind of way that we can look at as human human beings. I mean, every in every organization has human beings that that they really need to see as a valuable resource to move the business forward. And by investing in those human beings, we do grow a more valuable organization, human beings that are valued and developed and nurtured in the organization can move them move the business forward. And we see that over and over again, when we look at valuable companies versus companies that either are not sellable, or do not have the value.

Lindsay Recknell  07:25

Brilliant analogy, because it it comes down to that perception and mindset on how we are approaching the I don’t know the resources, I guess that make up our organization. And if we consider humans as the most valuable resource that we have, of course, you’re going to want to invest in those in those resources to grow your organization. And it’s interesting what you’re saying about the value of an organization. So I know that one of your expertise is in preparing business to sell and helping business owners in anticipation of that to grow the value of their business. So can you talk a little bit about how investing in the humans can grow the value of that business? Like, is there? Is there math? Is there a tool? What does that look like?

Laura Bechard  08:20

Yeah, there are tools, there is math, one of the tools that we use is a value builder, advisor, and there are other tools out there, but the tool we use is the value builder. And so that that does provide you with a scorecard. So leaders can go in owners can go in and answer a few questions takes 15 minutes. And they’re going to get a scorecard of where the value really is in their business. And conversely, of course, where it isn’t in their business. And so they’re able to get a comparison for how their organization is tracking to the industry averages in there. So it’s an industry to industry comparison. And so when we think about the human beings, and this is a client that I was working with over the last year, and he just successfully sold his business, when we were when we were looking at the investments that he was making in the human beings as we were doing our work together because for him, he struggled with where a lot of entrepreneurs do is doing everything themselves and not having that seconding command that bench strength within the organization that other people could could fill in for him and if he took vacation or once he retired or once he sold. So until he actually developed that in the company, the company had less value. So over the course of a year we work together on the development of his team and he promoted the he promoted the individuals he cross train them, we got SOPs in place. And as a result of doing that within a year is the value of his company went up almost 15% by just doing that and so so it was really interesting. The content realizations I had with him about, well, my income is going down, my net income is going down because I’m having to pay these people more, and I need to backfill them. So I’ve had to actually add a person to my compliment to my to my team. And so part of the part of our work together was okay, yes, maybe your net income has been impacted. But when he redid the assessment, he found that because he was more redundant, he was more able to step away from the company, his company had actually grown in value, even if his income hadn’t changed at all.

Lindsay Recknell  10:37

Amazing, and it makes me think about, like, kind of put myself in a buyer shoes looking at that organization as, as a new buyer. Of course, I don’t want to be dependent on the owner to earn the revenue that’s in the business, because I’m the new owner, you know. So that makes a ton of sense.

Laura Bechard  10:59

Yeah, and it’s a challenge with many owner operated or businesses, they were the owner is still an integral part of it. And our job when we working with those, those managers of those owners is to really make them redundant. And when I was talking to this, this client, he just actually closed the deal on March 1. And he said, he, I said, Well, how are you feeling? He says, Well, you made me redundant. And he says, for the last, you know, the last six months, you know, that he had the confidence that the team that he had developed, was able to run the company without him. And he was, you know, to farm or holidays and he had before. And because he did that he made himself you know, really convert by taking yourself from being a full time employee or working 80 hours a week, like a lot of entrepreneurs are to working 20 hours a week really significantly impacts your value. And he has multiplier with which is often a key thing that is considered in value went up by a full percent, because he developed his team. And when you develop your team, and you challenge your team, as you you’re aware of it, like they you get that discretionary effort, and people feel good, but they’re challenged, and they’re developing, and they’re able to do more, and they’re building new skills. And you can unleash that really unleash the talent and the productivity that’s in your organization, by investing in your people.

Lindsay Recknell  12:19

Well, and that sort of short term, you know, dollars and cents impact of hiring that extra person or spending, you know, spending training dollars is incrementally going to grow or be negated almost because the increase in revenue from your flourishing team members, who are also, you know, seeing this behavior being modeled by this owner, this past owner in finding life work integration and self care and working less hours and things like that, it’s modeling that behavior out loud, that matters as well.

Laura Bechard  12:53

Well, and those owners don’t have as many insignificant health incidents, because they’ve reduced their stress. They don’t get divorced as often because they do have better work life balance, they’re going on vacation, there’s they’re seeing your family. And so you know, really, it’s when it comes down to it, Lindsay, it’s really about risk reduction. And and so that’s some of the first sort of active first work that we do with any of our clients is we look at how can we reduce risk, because as soon as we reduce risk, we have a more valuable company, just simply by reducing risk. So you know, we’re often familiar with tools like using insurance to reduce risk. And definitely those are tools that we can use to reduce some risks. But there’s also implementing operating procedures and policies and procedures can reduce risk, we can also reduce risk by cross training and building bench strength within our organization. We also reduce risk by being, you know, one of those sought after employers, so we don’t have high employee turnover. And we know as we develop and invest in our people, we can generate higher performing teams get higher level of productivity, which does generate in, in our organization starting to starting to either operate at best in class or getting very close to world class in terms of what our return is on our financial metrics. So investing in your people, getting them more productive, does generate more profits.

Lindsay Recknell  14:24

So brilliant, I never I’ve never thought about the valuation, positive valuation impacts of doing this work. That’s super interesting perspective. You mentioned metrics. And you know, one of the ones being when you don’t work so often you don’t have as many poor health outcomes. You don’t have as many divorces. And I think that this is things that employers don’t often consider when it comes to let’s say, benefits utilization rates, right where we we have employee benefits programs, and if our employees are feeling Well, maybe they’re not using and drawing off our benefits programs as much. We want to encourage it, of course, but it is, I mean, black and white, it is a cost to the business. And so can you talk a little bit about what you might advise your clients in some of those kinds of metrics and opportunities to reduce cost like dollars and cents costs, while also investing in their people?

Laura Bechard  15:29

Yeah, in this really looking at the, the way you can reduce some of those costs, or the is really from the lack of the productivity piece. When you have when you have people missing work, you have low productivity on that day. And so it definitely from the the benefits, I mean, we’ve got companies have so many options now about how they want to run their benefits and what benefits they bring and how they do it. So I mean, we’re seeing more and more companies using health spending accounts, which can can more control the costs of those expenses, or those that what those expenses are, because when those are run through insurance companies, I don’t know what you, Lindsay, but it’s very rare that insurance company will bring my rates down. And so we have, we have those those built in increases every year, because the insurance companies are private organizations, they have shareholders just like a lot of other companies do, and they want to maximize profit for their shareholders. So you know, they’re always going to increase our rates, or, you know, our rates are never going to go down when we’re looking at insurance, which is where we’re at number of people are now either supplementing with health spending accounts or replacing without spending accounts, because they can now fix the amount of that cost that’s not going to creep up every year.

Lindsay Recknell  16:46

I also love the concept of health spending accounts as it related to sort of flexibility. So often benefits programs are set. And it’s the same program virtually for all employees. Can you talk a little bit about health spending accounts for people who might not be familiar with it?

Laura Bechard  17:07

Yeah, absolutely. health spending accounts are are ways that you can fix $1 value for what you want to be providing a benefit to your workforce. And you can have different levels of benefits. So you can have benefits for part time employees that maybe you know, maybe it takes them a while before they kick in, and maybe the amounts, maybe it’s $500 for a part time employee. And maybe someone that’s in a management role, maybe is is significantly higher, maybe it’s 5000, maybe 3000 a year. And so you know, they it provides the employees with a lot of flexibility, because as we see, not everybody has prescriptions. And and so I know in our family, our health spending account made a lot more sense because we don’t have a high drug use in our family or prescription medications. But we do like to use massage and Cairo and and you know, we all have glasses. And so you know, all of our traditional insurance based health health benefit plans max out pretty quickly on all of those things. And so you know, it’s very, highly unlikely that you can actually get any of your expenses covered, and you end up paying for things that you never use, because you’re part of this plan. So the nice thing about health spending accounts is you can also add the wellness and wellness spending account to it, which provides you with that opportunity to provide flexibility for employees who I might want to use my wellness account to buy a gym membership, someone else might want to use it to buy a ski pass and sunshine. So we have flexibility with how we use our wellness instead of having to design a one size fits all solution and everybody gets a gym membership. And maybe some people already have one and they don’t want another one. Yeah. Well, and then it

Lindsay Recknell  18:53

becomes a recruitment and retention tool as well like, yeah, because it gives employers the option to customize or have the employee customize. And you know, somebody who’s looking at two opportunities would likely choose all other things sort of equal. Where have they where they have more control an agency over how they can maintain their own wellness with the organization support.

Laura Bechard  19:18

Yeah, they may choose to do just the insurance portion of a group benefit and not do the extended health for example. And this is getting into a little touchy subject. But you remember when something called cannabis was legalized a little while ago, there were a lot of companies who excluded of the coverage for medical cannabis from their health spend health accounts and that would not be the case in health spending account. If someone wanted to use their health spending account to to to fulfill a builder cannabis subscription, it would be fine.

Lindsay Recknell  19:51

Yeah. And yeah, that that flexibility and personalization, I think cannot be undervalued at all. Something that’s coming to mind is kind of, I don’t know, old school thinking versus new school thinking. I mean, 10 years ago, getting your work to pay for your medical cannabis would not be something we would be talking about at all. I love that we get to you know. So if there’s people listening that are thinking, you know, my boss is one of those old school folks, and they just don’t get it. What what is your best piece of advice on? I don’t know, some, some math or some some stats or something like what? What do you think is the most compelling discussion point that would help would help to sway someone who’s maybe doesn’t quite get it yet?

Laura Bechard  20:49

Well, one of the one of the things that I used to do in my prior life was I used to teach income tax at a college system. And one of the one of the things that I always encourage people to look at is the after tax impact of their decisions. And so when you make a decision to go with a group insurance plan, you have certain after tax consequences, if you make a decision to go with a health spending account, there are different after tax consequences. And those consequences are different for both employees and employers. So looking at it from a really a tax, a tax situation, because ultimately, we want to we want to make good, we want to make our good business decisions, thinking about the tax impact of those decisions. And it happens all the time with like lease versus buy decisions, do I lease something? Do I buy it? I’m always having conversations with individuals about do I put my car in my business or do I own my car personally, and lease it to my business, and those all have different tax consequences, the results the same, you get to use your vehicle for business and personnel, but how you choose to treat it has a different tax consequence. And so you know, people often don’t talk to their accountants soon enough and early enough and often enough, that by the time they actually go talk to their accountant, it’s too late to reverse or change the decision that’s been made. So so make these decisions are no differently, they have different tax consequences for employees and employers. And it depends on the industry and the type of company you are. And so it’s not kind of a one size fits all solution, either. But I that’s what I look at is the the after tax consequences. And, and sometimes employees don’t know that. They’re sometimes old school too, and they think they want a traditional health benefits plan. And then they’re not really realizing that they’re what they’re what they’re giving up in terms of flexibility to to get that that type of plan. That’s kind of old school.

Lindsay Recknell  22:48

Brilliant. So the number one thing to do is call your tax accountant. Got it? Okay, cool. Um, is there so I know, and I know, you just mentioned that there’s not a one size fits all. And that’s, that’s clear. I mean, if it was easy, we would all be doing this stuff. But is there something like a low hanging fruit like a something that you think would add huge value that people should start doing right away? To really make a big impact? Is it you know, is it pulling stats of your your utilization? Is it you know, calling your tax accountant? I don’t know, in terms of that health spending in terms of the health benefits?

Laura Bechard  23:29

Yeah, it is looking at your historical use. And it’s starting to look at what is that? What is the ROI on that investment, because it is an investment, the employees are investing many cases and the employer is investing in it, and is that the highest and best use of those funds. And so, again, some of those things don’t change overnight. But you can start socializing different concepts, you can start having those conversations in your workplace have, what employees would need, because even something like going to counseling for mental health or getting mental health programs, they know you may be able to have those subsidized through health spending accounts, whereas your traditional Employee Benefits Program is going to be very limited with how much how much counseling, you would be able to get covered under a plan.

Lindsay Recknell  24:18

And unlike the I mean, we have a whole bunch of data in organizations already that support that support this work or can help us look for opportunities in this work. Are there other data points that lead that an owner can start to look at for these opportunities?

Laura Bechard  24:34

Well, I think it’s really looking at your holistically at your employees and your employee development process. And some of the other work that we do with organizations looks at the whole human performance management side of things and, and so sometimes when we start working with managers or owners, they’re, you know, they’re pointing their fingers all at their employees and saying it’s an employee performance issue. But as we work through are the framework that we use is looking at, you know, why is performance constrained. And we there’s really three primary reasons why performance would be constrained, and one is no opportunity. So of course, if you don’t have the opportunity to perform, your performance is not going to be stellar, right. So that’s usually the easiest ones to fix instead, if someone hasn’t had the opportunity, but let’s give them the opportunity to perform. The next bucket is usually more around the capability. So this is where we’re looking at things like what’s your hiring process? What is your what’s your human development process? What are your workflows and your work processes? Do people have supplies and materials, they need to actually do the work that you want them to do? So it looks at that environment of the capability. And sometimes we can find some solutions within that when we explore that constraint to say, Well, you may not be hiring people for fit, you might be hiring people just for technical expertise, but you’re not hiring for cultural fit. So we may be able to influence the hiring process or we they feel they’re hiring great people then okay, like now, how are you developing those people? Are you onboarding them effectively? Does onboarding only happen for one day? Or do you have a longer onboarding plan, that that’s going to really support that employee during their first their first year or more with your organization? And then so if we’ve sometimes we find that some of the challenges to performance are in that bucket, and that the third bucket is the organization or the context or the environment? And that’s often where we look into what’s what are the positive reinforcements in the workforce? What’s the organizational consequences for either outstanding performance or mediocre or performance, it doesn’t hit the mark. And so that’s where we do more management and leadership development in how to be more effective in managing and leading your people. And so usually, it’s not one area that’s constraining performance is usually multiple areas. And, and what you know, what’s also telling there when you talk about data that organizations have is organizations often don’t have that kind of data. And so when we start talking to them about what’s the performance issue, we get a lot of subjective kinds of comments, because they don’t have any data to back it up. And so sometimes we kind of take their word for it. And we start working on the subjective data and developing these KPIs, these lead indicators, lag indicators and metrics to actually say, you know, we think it’s this, but now are we actually going to get the data to support that insert, like the scientific method, here’s our hypothesis. Now let’s go and collect the data to see if that’s actually true. And then suppose in some organizations do have the data and then we can actually do some calculations and look at you know, what is the most significant performance constraint that we can we can work on. So you don’t want to work on those, those performance constraints that are minor, you want to work on the ones that are likely going to have the biggest impact? If we fix them?

Lindsay Recknell  28:12

Oh, amazing. So many, like specific tactics. They’re brilliant. So for the audience who was listening, going, Man, this woman is brilliant, and I need her in my organization to solve all the problems of my world. How do they get ahold of you?

Laura Bechard  28:31

Yeah, they can easily reach out to me, my email is, I can go to our website, And you know, they find me on LinkedIn Facebook page, so lots of different ways that people can reach out to reach out to me.

Lindsay Recknell  28:46

Awesome, and I absolutely will link to all of those places in the show notes to make it real easy for people to get ahold of you, Laura, this has been so so valuable, I just, I can hear people going to look for data. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But still, I mean, so such great, real life practical things that we can we can try. And that’s what we’re all about here is actual things we can try. So thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been a real pleasure.

Laura Bechard  29:13

Oh, you’re welcome, Lindsay. How come thanks for inviting me.

Lindsay Recknell  29:17

Thanks, you too. Take care.

Lindsay Recknell  29:21

Didn’t I tell you so much goodness, I love how Laura shared the value of elevating your employees. It’s obvious that it makes your employees feel good and encourages them to flourish, but to hear how big the impact is, and organizational valuation and shareholder value to awesome at the beginning of the show, I mentioned the free training you can try it with your teams all about stopping the slide into burnout, that feeling of overwhelm and endless stress so many of us are experiencing right now to compliment those materials which you can download for free on my website at mental health in forward slash tryout, I’ve also created a 60 minute live virtual or in person workshop titled From burnout to hope, which has been transformational for so many organizations. You and your team will leave this workshop understanding how to identify the signs of burnout in yourselves and others, how to put into action the evidence based strategies and tactics to reverse feelings of overwhelm and languishing and activate the hope circuit in your brain for a future even better than today. It’s hopeful, practical and transformative, and I’d love to bring it to your organization. On our website, you’ll find more information about this workshop as well as the mental health in minutes digital subscription, a done for you package of presentations and other content designed to help you make meaningful connections with your people to increase knowledge and education about mental health related topics, and to normalize these kinds of conversations in your workplace. The thing we do best at mental health in minutes is open the door to conversations about mental health at work. And episodes like this give us a real things we can try to truly make a difference. Being a people leader is especially hard right now, you might feel like you’re managing both up and down the corporate ladder. And if the thought of figuring out how to best support your people and yourself feels overwhelming and impossibly hard, let’s talk. We’re here to do the heavy lifting with resources and materials along with the training and facilitation, leaving you to do what you do best engaging with and supporting your people. We have many ways to support you from full service hands on to guidance and support from afar. So let’s chat about what works best for you and your people. As always, I’m here if you need me.

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