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Supporting employees during turbulent times

Supporting employees health during turbulent times

Whether you are an employer, company leader or HR professional, the abbreviation, V.U.C.A. soon becomes common knowledge. It represents Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It's a concise way of summing up our world of perpetual and unforeseeable change, especially so in recent times.

“Managing” vs “Coaching”

Managing and Coaching aren’t the same, although coaching is a component of successful management. 

While management puts the focus on results and solutions to problems faced by the company as a whole, coaching is more oriented towards the problems faced by the employees, and towards helping them address these problems from a ground-up level.

Coaches are especially keen on building a relationship with members of the company and draw from their own professional experience to help advise, steer and give input. It's critical to note that a mentor/coach’s role isn’t tied to knowing everything about the employee’s job, as the coach’s job is focused on direction and support. A coach can be a consistent sounding-board and may even help with psychological wellness issues, as coaching someone opens up correspondence channels; essentially helping the employees to express issues or difficulties which can act as stress-relief as well. Moreover, the information shared in a mentor/mentee relationship is usually kept confidential and private.

Asking the right questions

The best way to help employees in times of crisis is to return to the fundamentals. When a V.U.C.A. circumstance emerges, pioneering employers and HR professionals should display finesse. Interpersonal finesse and soft-skills identify with employees’ character, attributes and feelings; using effective communication, adaptability, critical thinking, inspiration, instinct, and so on, to help create more grounded and effective relationships with the employees, and to make manoeuvring V.U.C.A. conditions easier for everyone. 

Effective coaches dial-in on building a better relatability through compassion, which they can do by asking the following questions:

  • How are you feeling? 
  • What are your concerns? 
  • How might I/we help you? 

Posing non-restrictive questions allows for genuine and open answers, which help reinforce the bond between an employer and an employee. As per Gallup, managers represent around 70% of the variability in team engagement, so it is imperative that managers continually improve communication with their team and use training practices to increase inspiration and productivity – particularly in times of trouble. 

Earlier studies showed that 76% of employees reported experiencing burnout occasionally at work. However, newer research from 2020 reports a rise in burnout risk.

You may like: Manage employees' stress and mental well-being.

Some steps for leading in times of crisis

  • Be excellent in communication - The better your correspondence is, the safer your employees will feel.

Here are a few focus areas:

  1. Utilize person-to-person correspondence any way you can, regardless of whether that is face-to-face or through video calls. This helps employees feel more natural while communicating. Specifically, your messages gain clarity and certainty because team members can make use of your non-verbal communication and expressions to grasp what you are saying. It additionally builds the feeling of human contact, which is important for cutting down stress in circumstances such as these. 
  2. Set clear intentions, rules and limits for work. This will help in creating a feeling of assurance for every member of the team. 
  3. Don't allow casual conversations to drop! During seasons of vulnerability (and especially now when most people are working from home), casual banter can frequently disappear as we face the immediate difficulties of working remotely. HR managers can facilitate small talk during business hours to decrease the nervousness and detachment that the team might be feeling. This could incorporate some light and friendly discussion at the start of a video meeting; writing a social email talking about non-work related interests, or simply calling somebody up for a general conversation.

Giving team members freedom to bond will help them see that empathy, sympathy and camaraderie exist even during crises.

  • Maintain trust in your team - The focus should be on taking care of issues or difficulties emerging from the new ordinary, as opposed to feeling like you must look over somebody's shoulder to check their work habits and productivity.
  • Check in with individual members consistently - It is critical to check in with colleagues regularly. By allowing them to make inquiries and by showing an interest in them, you diminish the vulnerability for everyone involved. Additionally, this helps create a protected space for them to share any concerns or worries that may be impeding their work or health.

An HR manager’s job now includes assisting team members with minimizing exhaustion, burnout, or deterioration in their physical and psychological wellness. You may likewise need to check-in regarding the tools they are currently working with, and whether they can carry out work tasks effectively with what they have at their disposal.

Read about: Earning employee loyalty during turbulent times.

The way forward:

In these uncertain times, as employers, leaders and managers, you need to clarify to your team that you are there for them. Doing so will lead to an increase in trust, inspiration, and communication about issues so you can lend a helping hand where required. Also, incorporating a comprehensive employee wellness plan can create a bond of mutual understanding between employers and employees. All of this contributes to a safer, happier and more productive workplace, equipped to deal with any uncertainties and crises that the present or future may have in store.

Kiran Kalakuntla is the current CEO & Co-Founder at ekincare. He has 15+ years of experience in building & marketing 30+ technology products, and has previously managed $100M in product sales for AT&T.