The way companies continue to treat their staff during the COVID-19 pandemic will forever shape customer and potential employees’ perceptions of what it is like to engage with a brand.

Considering this, as businesses slowly begin to build plans for the future and prepare for the "new normal," it is important to ensure you are providing your employees with the security and support they need to maintain engagement, productivity, and commitment to your organization.

There are three key things your employees need more than ever during a crisis: psychological safety, empathy and respect, and support and recognition. Here we will explore each of these areas in more detail:

Psychological Safety

Communication between employees and their managers has never been more important. There is a need for employees to feel comfortable and safe to speak up and speak out, to challenge and question what is happening around us and in their organization. However, in many situations whereby an employee feels they need to speak up, they typically do not out of fear.

On this topic, research from VERCIDA Consulting -- based on employee engagement surveys from numerous global companies, together with focus group data -- has identified a repetitive trend:

  • Many groups of employees – particularly minority ethnic communities and disabled groups - often do not feel that their voice is heard or respected.
  • Employees do not challenge leadership decisions for fear of career-limiting repercussions.
  • Employees do not trust their leaders to hear all voices equally. There is a perceived bias towards certain populations of employees.

Unfortunately, many employees do not feel psychologically safe in the workplace. This is one of the biggest leadership challenges of the modern era. Helpfully, Amy C. Edmondson offers a tool kit for leaders to build psychological safety, which includes three key steps:

  • Setting the stage: Setting expectations about failure, uncertainty, and interdependence to clarify the need for voice.
  • Inviting participation: Acknowledging skills gaps, asking insightful questions, and practicing intense listening. They also create forums for input and provide guidelines for discussion.
  • Responding productively: Listening, acknowledging, and thanking colleagues, as well as offering help to others.

Access the full report from VERCIDA here: "The seven core traits of inclusive leaders."

Empathy and Respect

This is a time to support and lift one another up, and empathy is key here. The fear and panic that has swept across the globe have seen the rise in a tremendous sense of community, whereby people are banding together to protect one another and look after those who are most vulnerable.Unfortunately, however, it has also resulted in a lot of blame and insensitivity.

In the workplace particularly, there is a real risk that those from minority groups find themselves less visible and less able to access leadership. This is because when teams work remotely, lines of communication and influence often become narrow.

During a recent interview with Gemma Harvey, Client Engagement Manager at PageGroup, Vinay Kapoor, Americas Head of D&I at BNP Paribas commented, “During a crisis, when people feel uncertain and fearful, inclusive behavior is even more important ... Therefore, during this moment in time, I would suggest everyone be extra vigilant against unconscious bias."

To ensure that biases are limited during this time, Vinay suggested following the below tips:

  • Encourage all employees to be seen and heard during calls.
  • Reach out to quieter team members when you seek input on decisions or during check-ins.
  • Ensure that everyone has access to assignments and opportunities that draw upon their talents, and allow them to shine.

Support and Recognition

Given that many employees are likely to be working home for the foreseeable future, employee engagement will be even more crucial.

Employees working from home can experience a plethora of distractions, such as managing childcare and even checking social media, which can make it easy to disengage from work.

Offering your people appropriate support to navigate their new day-to-day work routine and ensuring they are staying engaged through recognition for their hard work is key. In fact, during difficult times, recognition is arguably more meaningful than when businesses are operating as usual.

Highlighting those employees who have adapted and put in extra effort to ensure continued productivity will provide a morale boost to the individual and the wider team. Encouraging your staff to thank and appreciate each other will help them to stay connected which will boost engagement across your business.

More strategies to consider include:

  • Utilizing video technology to provide support and show recognition to your employees face to face
  • Showing recognition for specific actions over a general job well done
  • Using company wide-comms to show recognition for your people publicly
  • Being timely with your support and praise
  • Consider sending small rewards such as local gift cards or buying them lunch via a delivery service

Across each of these three areas of priority, effective communication is what will ensure you are maintaining strong working relationships with your team and will form the foundation for success. With so much information available, yet a lot of confusion surrounding the current situation, employees will be looking to their managers and business leaders for clarity and guidance.

For more insights or to discuss how we can support you and your team at this time, please get in touch.

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