As organisations confront the coronavirus pandemic, one thing is becoming clear; the implications of the epidemic will linger as remote working, and social distancing measures take centre stage. With the present trend, an inadvertent dilemma of balancing employee wellbeing and productivity comes to light. To maximise talent productivity and mitigate the impact of the disruption on employees, business leaders must assess and address these critical people issues.
Managing talent before the pandemic (when face-to-face interactions were part of the familiar routine) had its challenges. With the advent of remote working and other critical measures introduced to cushion the effects of COVID-19, further difficulties have emerged and, thus calls for innovative ways of managing talent in this time of unprecedented disruption.
In light of the preceding, below are (6) crucial strategies – organised under the acronym PEOPLE, fully equipped to motivate, manage and lead employees during times of uncertainty.
P: Put people first. The real test of leadership, and the heartbeat of an organisation, is most evident during a crisis. The way an organisation treat its people is a direct reflection of its leadership culture. To further wane implications of the crisis on employees, an introduction of well-crafted value messages aimed at motivating employees should be incorporated in official communications. These messages provide traction during times of uncertainty and add value, hence increases employee productivity.
E: Educate supervisors and line managers on how to manage teams during crisis effectively. The role of supervisors and middle managers are very critical as their day-to-day engagements with employees significantly impact on organisational performance. To improve employee performance, supervisors and line managers must be equipped with people management resources, relevant training, and information needed to support employees during downturns. Without these resources and tailored training, organisations run the risk of managing employees with considerable untapped potentials. Correspondingly, the training should also include how managers can quickly identify post-traumatic stress disorders and the best ways to engage employees undergoing stress.
O: Open door policy. The importance of incorporating an open-door policy in the leadership culture of an organisation cannot be overstated – especially during a crisis. To an employee, an open-door system strengthens loyalty, commitment, and confidence in an organisation. The implementation of an open-door policy during times of unprecedented disruption encourages productive interactions between the employee and organisational leadership. This also gives room for constructive feedback and fosters collaboration.
P: Positively influence employee engagement. It is widely recognised that employee engagement plays a critical role in improving business outcomes. A research carried out by Gallup in 2010, an American analytics and advisory company revealed that organisations with a high employee engagement rating have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to organisations in the same industry with a lower employee engagement score. One of the consistent findings across all sectors about employee engagement is that business leaders and managers play vital roles in creating the environments for engagement. Positively engaged employees tend to be more productive, more profitable, and more customer-focused.
L: Learn to Listen. Communication is not complete without active listening. Listening is key to all effective communications, and without the desire to listen effectively, vital messages or information are likely to be misunderstood. In times of crises, business leaders should, as a matter of priority, listen to their employees and correspondingly, empower them to help make the organisation better. By showing employees that their thoughts and suggestions matter, business leaders can quickly create more substantial buy-in for organisational initiatives, thus building consensus towards collaborative productivity.
E: Expect Challenges. As organisations build resilience in their fight toward survival, there will be challenges and difficulties in managing talent. During crises, it is common to see dereliction of duties, difficulty concentrating, excessive negligence, requests for sick leave, and increased absenteeism—all of which are conventional responses from employees in times of uncertainty. To manage talent during this phase, there must be an increase in communication as experts have proven that active communication is the best way to deal with people challenges. The more employees are engaged to express their thoughts and emotions, the healthier the organisation becomes.
Today, the pace of disruption is faster than it has ever been at any other time in history, hence the need for organisational resilience in people management. Business leaders who take specific actions to support employees and care about retaining talent will surely be among the most resilient organisations. Implementing these strategies will not always be easy—and might take some time. But by providing the necessary resources and support across your organisation, employees will be able to navigate whatever challenges may arise in due course.
David Edozie Onochie