Supporting people through crisis, what can we learn from past experiences?
We know that the HR function has been diverting its energies to managing the huge turmoil created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and much more is left to be done. Whilst it is clear that the scale and impact of what is happening is unprecedented, it’s worth reflecting on what we know is important during crisis management situations.
So, our offer for this roundtable was to provide a confidential place in which the Career Innovation team would facilitate some collaboration on the human impact challenge that we face. During the session David North one of our regular contributors to the roundtables shared some insights from his own experience of leading a business operation during a significant period of crisis, drawing on the lessons learnt.
We also discussed what we see as the lasting HR challenges and what can be done to help employees and managers regain a sense of purpose, mental well-being, and ultimately the productivity needed to get businesses back on track.
A group of passionate and committed HR leaders came together to share and discuss the human impact of the CV-19 crisis and the diversity of individual experiences it is surfacing. We also reflected on our insights and lessons learnt, and how these can be harnessed as we move forward.
Part 1: Insight
It became clear that while we have some shared challenges, the practical issues facing each of us differ by sector, location and personal circumstances. Participants outlined how the crisis had:
- Accelerated the need for organisational and individual agility; from taking on different roles in HR, through moving more people around their organisation, to completely repurposing the business.
- Activated faster decision making, and flexible, remote working on a huge scale.
- Increased the desire, and need, for clear communication
- Focused attention on the importance of employee resilience, wellbeing and support as work groups become more fragmented.
- Challenged us to think about the future today; for example what work and careers will look like in 3, 6 and 24 months’ time.
Part 2: Innovation
David North, one of our senior consultants, shared a personal story of his role in a senior leadership team supporting managers and employees through an extended business crisis. The lessons learned from his experience resonated with participants grappling with our current situation.
David highlighted the importance of:
- The CEO’s open and authentic leadership style
- Valuing personal connection, in particular the support provided by leaders to their team members, and from peer to peer.
- Equipping managers and supervisors with the information and tools needed to make sense of major change, so they could in turn help their people with the psychological transition involved.
Encouraging people to:
- Listen, empathise, and support colleagues
- Focus attention on what they can control
- Be open to experimentation and learning
In response, we discussed the importance of: data in helping us understand how we’re doing; redefining success for managers; and organisations being seen to be ‘good employers’ by their people
Part 3: Impact
The group acknowledged that the crisis brings long-term challenges, but also strongly believed that it presents opportunities.
They were determined that the lessons learned should be applied to the future ways of working within their organisations.
For example by:
- Removing traditional obstacles to change, and continuing to work quicker and smarter
- Championing the critical importance of purpose, values and trusted leadership
- Capitalising on what people have shown us they can deliver when given more autonomy.
- Ensuring our mid-level managers have the information they need to lead
- Consolidating new ways of learning
- Building the resilience of all employees to handle a prolonged period of change.
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