No one needs me to tell them that the past few days, weeks, months, and years have been challenging. On a personal, professional, local, national, and global level, it seems as though each day welcomes us with more devastating news and tumultuous situations. It’s critical for employers to realize that employees are overly affected by what’s happening in the world and need support from their employers.
The professional world has drastically changed over the past few years and the “leave your problems at the door” mentality is no longer acceptable. Employees want to work for a company that values who they are as individuals and fosters an environment where they can bring their whole selves to work. We live in a time where news is available to the entire world in a matter of seconds through social media, and this news can have a serious impact on your employees.
Although it may be uncomfortable acknowledging what’s happening in the world with your employees, it’s necessary. Having a plan for communicating these contentious topics can demonstrate that the organization is abreast of current and evolving news and events, will help employees feel seen and supported, nurture a connected workforce, and much more.
Here are a few ways to navigate these heavy times and support your employees, both professionally and personally:
- Be responsive
- Create safe spaces
- Connect with your employees
- Seek a larger opportunity for change
Be responsive to news and events and acknowledge the issue(s)
Timely, sensitive, and clear acknowledgment of difficult issues ensures your employees that you’re aware of what is happening in the world and that it may be affecting them in one way or another. This is a great way of making sure your employees know they’re seen and supported without direct interaction. Making a statement about contentious and controversial topics can be difficult in itself, so be sure to have empathy when addressing the issues and be clear about where your organization stands as it relates to your mission and values. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, here are some great suggestions on how to take that first step. Whether it’s in a meeting or through email, acknowledging these difficult times and the impact on your employees is critical.
Create safe spaces
It’s imperative that employees feel like they have a safe space to discuss what’s happening in the world and how it affects them personally. A company-wide meeting or email thread may not be the best and most comfortable place for employees to share their feelings. Instead, organizations can encourage an open-door policy with managers and senior leadership, allowing employees to feel safe when having a private discussion and sharing what’s clouding their minds. This allows for fostering deeper conversations and opportunities for employers to listen and learn about issues that they may not be too familiar with. If your organization offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or any other type of program, be sure to remind your employees that they have equal and affordable access to mental health resources, and the ability to create an open forum that meets regularly.
Here at JOHNLEONARD, we created a “Coffee Connection”, a safe online forum for employees to join as they desire to share, listen, discuss, and learn about what other employees may be going through in these trying times. This forum takes place every Friday and welcomes anyone who feels like they need it that day.
Connect with your employees
Managers and senior leadership should take the time to reach out to each employee on their team and personally check-in. Acknowledging that people on your team are suffering is important and just offering to lend an ear if needed speaks volumes. It’s not something to be forced; leaders shouldn’t feel obligated to respond in a problem-solving way. Just listening shows an employee you care and are there to support them through these challenging times.
Turn issues into an opportunity
While current issues are quite heavy, the discussions in response can turn into positive change. From this Harvard Business Review article, employees can nurture these tough discussions to advocate for change by “establishing a new employee resource group, finding opportunities for the team to volunteer or make a donation, or simply recommitting to supporting each other by establishing inclusive and equitable norms”.
Trying to navigate your company through today’s world can be overwhelming, but ensuring your employees feel seen, respected, and supported is what will keep your organization running smoothly through it all.
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