One of our team members loves kayaking and enjoys sharing how he looked forward to April each year while growing up in New England. The snow melt created an opportunity for a water-based adventure. One part about it that always made his heart beat fast was when he would get turned over. All of a sudden he would be upside down and this huge rush of water was rushing by him at a huge rate and he would think he is panicking when all of a sudden he was popping back up and moving back down the stream or river.
He then pointed out to me that those moments were scary and he always remembers them. He also find those experiences made him a better kayaker and a more confident person.
The past few months remind me of this. When I am speaking to the human resources leaders I talk with regularly for KangoGift I share that story and tell them how I see that it is relatable in today’s world. We’ve been through a process that is scary, memorable but now we’ve moved into that point where we have to move on to the next stage.
The biggest takeaway from this is that it’s not about survival it’s about the next stage of your evolution. Let's talk about a few key elements. Specifically I’m talking about:
- Be truly human
- Be an agent of hope and humor
So let’s discuss these in more detail
WWWWH - I’ve listed what they are above, so let’s dive right in. The four w’s are more important now than ever before.
First there is the who to answer - your employees.
The most important customers you have. It is of vital importance that you keep them informed so that you can keep them engaged. You can offer the "whos" tangible information and expectations that can make them continue being proud of the work they are doing and letting them know they are contributing.
Second is the what--Communicate that these are tough times but shift gears tactfully and move your communication into a positive one focusing on being positive. Let them know you are still there to offer them the support they need during this difficult time. Show appreciation for their accomplishments and move beyond hand-holding into appreciation.
Third is when--This may be the simplest of the bunch. Communicate with your employees frequently. Make sure you’re not overdoing it though. They don’t need you communicating with them everyday. But you need to communicate with them much more frequently than you did before these unique changes.
Work with them to celebrate those key milestones. A project completed, personal event, or a special work anniversary something that is special to the team, the person or both. The recognition by the team leader, senior management or fellow team members will go quite a long way as you move ahead.
Where is next-Where consists of two facets. Well there is the where of being inside the organization. Remotely as we all know. But where is also within the team and I can’t stress how important that is. The where could be in some big organizational meeting, or it could be in some one-on-one chat. The where is truly vital since no matter what it will engage the employee directly. The result will be a positive experience which will be much more important as we return to some state of normalcy.
Psyche, heart, not mind.
How is the final, and most important part of the equation--Basically how are you going to engage your employees now. They’ve obviously been through a tremendous shock that can not be equaled, or even contemplated.
So what should you do? First, you need to communicate. You need to have meetings with the team on a regular basis. You absolutely need to solicit feedback from employees and engage them by soliciting their opinions. By doing this you are allowing managers from the C-level down to evaluate what you should do, how you are going to do it and how successful it has been. The how will determine how successful you are at engaging your employees.
Be truly human-HR leaders all know that the human part in their tidal has never been more required than ever before. They are living in heartbreaking times where decisions that are changing people's lives are made quickly. It is perfectly fine, and normal for HR executives and other managers to show genuine concern for those who they engage with. It is something that is really a great idea now.
Be an agent of hope and humor--One thing I am hearing from many of the HR leaders I encounter is that they are finally seeing those first rays of lights. It makes them believe that there is in fact some hope that is reappearing. It is something that the managers in their organization are starting to see as well. Let’s be clear that this is not an indication that all is well and we can kick back. It’s a sense that after months of fear and apprehension, things may finally be returning to normal.
There is also a sense of humor starting to kick back in. I’ve seen cases where clients are once again finding things to laugh at in their own daily work and sharing stories about managers and teams who are starting to laugh. It’s like that first flowering plant in the spring that makes us start to think the terrible winter is behind us. Sure there are some cold days ahead. It may even snow. But there is a strong likelihood that we’re going to be OK
So let me wrap up with some quick suggestions.
- Who, what, when, where and how is more important than ever. You need to do deep dives and ensure that you have as complete a profile of your employees as possible, their feelings, concerns and how to react to them.
- Be truly human-I’ve spoken about this in the past and it bears repeating. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with your line managers and teams and let them know it is fine to share their own feelings as much as they feel comfortable doing so. It’s ok to show concern but also be sure to show some positive emotions like hope and humor.
- Be that agent of hope and humor-Things have changed to such a degree that hope and humor can now be seen as appropriate. Be sure to have your managers integrate it into your organization as appropriate and in line with company police. Both are infectious and will give your employees that reason to feel the future is now and they will respond to this engagement with a stronger output.
It is evident to me when I talk to KangoGift partners they are starting to move into the next stage. They need to get some ideas as to what the next stage will be but they know they need to change their own mindset to be prepared for it.