Right now we are all faced with extraordinary challenges and for some, those challenges will be life changing. In a matter of weeks the way we do business has been turned on its head.
Because of this we are working to manage multiple scenarios that many have never encountered before. In short, HR leaders are juggling more than they've had to in the past with more pressure and less resources — from pandemic crisis management and increased communications to staying on top of changing government and safety regulations, updating policies — all while staying afloat of normal HR duties and maintaining company morale.
Amidst the uncertainty and constant change we can find a North Star if we look to our organization purpose, for this remains constant.
Remember this: The fundamental reason your business exists hasn’t changed overnight.
The “how” and the “who” may have shifted recently — think of local breweries that are swapping their craft beer festivals to provide hand sanitizers to hospitals — but your “why” hasn’t changed.
Having a clearly defined purpose for your organization enables you to effectively communicate your “why” to employees, prospective clients, customers, investors and well, everyone that your company comes into contact with. It articulates the reason your company exists.
Having a clear purpose gives everyone the opportunity to find a connection with your organization that is meaningful to them.
At a time like this, purpose is important because:
It ensures that you stay focused and true to your mission
It enables your leaders to "sense check" temporary change of direction to respond to the environment: Are we still being true to our purpose? How?
It enables leaders to continue embedding company values and its "why" to employees, even if that why is temporarily reshaped.
If employers leverage purpose as an anchor to support leaders and employees through an environment of constant change, we will come out of the other side of this not just surviving, but thriving.
Unraveling the employee mindset
When you think about your employees right now, there is likely a lot going on for them, and it’s critical for leaders to think about the best ways to connect, support and recognize their people to keep companies moving forward. Here’s a look at what I’ve been hearing:
Feeling lost and scared
Many will be looking to the leaders in their lives as they seek security and safety. More than ever before they will want to hear from the person "steering the ship" in an open and honest way and probably more frequently than usual. They’ll be looking for HR to provide support through this crisis, and leaders to affirm that there is still a purpose to deliver on, that although it’s a little bumpy things will be OK.
What can employers do? Empower the leaders in your business with the tools to transparently communicate with employees and permission to do so often. Technology, especially video, can help messages land in an authentic – and human! – way. Use an employee communications tool with tools such as blogs to promote storytelling with rich media like photos, data or even animation to tell your story.
Dealing with changes in their mental health
For some, their mental health will be impacted. In the absence of their close connections in the workplace and the absence of structure and daily rituals like their daily standup, their morning coffee run or even their favorite workspace, they’ll be looking for new rituals and new reasons to get out of bed every day.
That’s why it’s so important for HR leaders to look for new ways to support their people, whether that’s opening up more direct lines of communication and resources to improve mental health, or directly through employee discounts that can ease financial stress or other burdens at home.
What can employers do? We have introduced a couple of new, low-cost perks during this time to enable RG employees to nurture their mental health:
- We’ve let employees download a running app (like Couch to 5k) and expense the cost back to us, in the hopes that people will make space in their day for moving away from their work and stepping out the front door.
- Our employer-sponsored book club enables all employees to purchase professional development titles at no cost, and in exchange employees are invited to review and share how the title supported them in their work. During COVID-19 and moving to dependency on remote work, the RG book club has been extended to allow for employees to expense the cost of one "non-professional development" book per month – encouraging and supporting employees to take time away from their work and focus on something they love personally.
Craving understanding behind the meaning of their day-to-day work
More than ever your employees will be wanting to feel part of something bigger. They’ll be longing to understand how they can continue to contribute to purpose, how they can keep their minds "busy" and feel a sense of belonging.
Employees will be seeking to deliver on their own purpose — how they can control and fuel their own "why" when everything in their external environment is completely different. Purpose-driven companies leading the way are doubling down their mission to make employees feel more connected than ever before to their organization’s "Why."
What can employers do? Stay on top of your culture "fitness" by continuing to exercise your recognition muscles!
If the way you are delivering on your purpose has changed slightly – say you are a sales organization which is taking less orders so you have diverted some of your sales team skills to project based work, sharing the "how" through recognition is a great way to highlight the behaviors that contribute to success and some of the new ways in which people are contributing to the organization's purpose.
For employees, the organization's purpose needs to align closely with their purpose or values and morals and speak to what they want to achieve in their life in the context of work. Connecting the organization's purpose to that of your employees helps people feel a sense of safety and belonging meaning they feel like part of something much larger than themselves and continue to feel valued and respected although their environment is uncontrollable.
Ask yourself, how are you communicating and redefining your company’s purpose?