Every industry and company will inevitably face changes and economic turbulence at one point or another. Whether it’s corporate restructures, hiring freezes or redundancies, everyone turns to HR during times of uncertainty.
As it is, it’s already hard enough to create a positive work environment, build morale and support managers and employees on a daily basis.
Add any kind of challenging circumstances and HR’s role in helping to ease fears, maintain morale, cultivate resilience and ensure that employees feel valued and empowered, becomes so much more important.
Whether you’re currently preparing for a restructure or redundancies, or you just want to build resilience and empower everyone throughout your organisation, here are some practical tips to help employees thrive during times of uncertainty:
By emphasising purpose, we can establish a strong sense of meaning and direction at work and help employees to feel connected to something bigger than a job or a salary
1. Anchor in purpose
The foundation and key building block of employee morale and engagement is connecting to a common purpose and then working together to achieve it.
By emphasising purpose, we can establish a strong sense of meaning and direction at work and help employees to feel connected to something bigger than a job or a salary.
Purpose helps to focus everyone, at all levels, on what truly matters, why our organisations exist and why we all come to work.
You don’t need expensive consultants or facilitators to help teams and managers, either.
A simple 30-minute collaborative team meeting, answering the questions ‘what’, ‘who’ and ‘impact’ and then completing the statement ‘we (what we do) for (who we work for) so that (impact we want to make) will help teams to understand and articulate their purpose’.
Career development is critical to employee retention. HR plays a critical role here – even though we cannot guarantee that people will stay, we can ensure that we have talent pools and robust succession plans in place
2. Promote transparency
As a general rule, we should promote transparency and honest communication at all levels in our organisations.
During times of uncertainty, this is even more important, as gossip and fear-mongering will derail our efforts and damage morale and engagement.
Establish clear communication channels and ensure that there is a single source of truth that everyone can rely on. This might be a weekly video message from senior leadership or a dedicated page on the company intranet or teams portal.
Make sure that everyone can access this information, instead of relying on individual managers who may distort the message or neglect to share it with their teams altogether.
In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to lose track of the human elements to our work and focus on the legalities or compliance or commercials. Don’t fall victim to this pattern
3. Career development support
Career development is critical to employee retention. HR plays a critical role here – even though we cannot guarantee that people will stay, we can ensure that we have talent pools and robust succession plans in place.
Career development isn’t always vertical, so it’s important to:
- Implement some kind of job evaluation and grading system, as it provides an objective means of benchmarking jobs across organisations, industries and markets
- Create a competency and skills matrix for the entire organisation with definitions and expected levels of demonstrable proficiency at each level. Competencies and skills like communication skills or problem solving look very different in practice when evaluating a trainee contact centre agent or an accountant or a senior regional director and it’s important for everyone to understand what is expected at each level, if they wish to progress and grow in their career
- Encourage all employees to update their resumes regularly and save these to their company profile on the intranet or HRIS, as this improves internal recruitment and growth opportunities
- Implement ‘check-in conversations’ as a norm throughout the organisation, as it creates opportunities for employees to discuss their career and personal growth aspirations with their managers and to then work together towards achieving these
- Promote reskilling and up-skilling for everyone and signpost free online learning resources that employees can access in order to learn new skills and prepare for growth or career transition
Employee feedback or listening tools, as well as pulse surveys are exceptionally valuable in identifying challenges and fears that people are grappling with and this data can be used to implement timeous interventions or preventative measures
4. Promote wellness
During times of additional stress and hardship, it’s even more important to take care of health and wellbeing and provide employees with tools that will help them manage sources of stress in their lives.
In addition to the ordinary employee assistance programmes or wellness initiatives, add additional resources such as financial planning, support resources for family care-givers and stress management or mindfulness – anything that helps promote wellness both at and outside of work.
Employee feedback or listening tools, as well as pulse surveys are exceptionally valuable in identifying challenges and fears that people are grappling with and this data can be used to implement timeous interventions or preventative measures.
5. Employee recognition
Everyone likes feeling valued and like their daily efforts are being noticed. It’s therefore important to make employee recognition an integral part of company culture.
Encourage practices such as ‘wow Wednesday’ or ‘thankful Thursday’, where everyone has a prompt to reflect on and recognise the efforts or positive traits in their colleagues and thank them for being who they are and doing all the little things they do that make a difference at work.
In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to lose track of the human elements to our work and focus on the legalities or compliance or commercials. Don’t fall victim to this pattern.
Create a general culture of empathy, compassion and flexibility and work on making small changes that will help employees to thrive, even during tough times.
If you enjoyed this, read: How to support mental wellbeing during redundancies