Supporting Your Employees to Evolve and Thrive After a Turbulent Year
As we emerge from 18 months of uncertainty and ambiguity, and businesses start to look to the future, your employees are about to enter a new phase with you. You might wonder why as an employer you want to think about this period – we are finally able to move forward with more certainty and stability than we have had for a long time, businesses can plan with more confidence, and development plans are finally back on the agenda. Surely these are all positive things for employees?
Undoubtedly they are, yet there are two key things to consider as we step away from this limbo period. Firstly, employees aren’t returning as the same people they were 18 months ago. Everyone has been on their own journey of how the pandemic has affected them, whether that’s being personally affected by the devastating impact of Covid-19, having battled with homeschooling, or adjusted ways of working when we haven’t been able to physically work alongside colleagues. Everyone has had challenges to face that they would never have anticipated last year, and people’s resilience and fortitude have been tested.
Secondly, even though it feels positive, we have more certainty and can set the direction for the future – this remains a time of transition. People are adjusting to new ways of working and have more clarity with regards to the future, or at least the next few months, that hasn’t been there before. Working differently is one thing when you know it’s borne of short-term circumstances, and everyone copes with it and makes the best of it. However, it’s different than applying that to ‘normal’ life and considering how to embrace this as your new way of working for the foreseeable future.
Both of these factors mean that many employees have started to more consciously consider where their future lies – how they want to work, the type of work they want to dedicate themselves to, and the companies they want to be aligned with. As more and more people find themselves at a crossroads and are considering a career transition, how can you support your people with this next step, and why should you bother?
1) Acknowledge the journey each person has been on
Whenever people are going through points of career transition services, one of the key things is to acknowledge the journey and that everyone’s experience has been different, and this transition is no different. For some, increased home working has been a godsend, whereas for others it has been a source of frustration. Help people to feel listened to and don’t make assumptions about how your people feel as you move forward. Asking employees how they feel and responding to those feelings and ideas (even if you have to reject an idea) goes a long way to maintaining morale and helping people see a positive future with your organisation.
2) Open up the conversation about changing priorities
If you are acknowledging the journey people have been on, that is also going to mean acknowledging that a lot of people now want something different from work to what they wanted 18 months ago. Whether that’s more flexibility in ways of working or working hours, a new work challenge, or a change of role entirely to focus more on newly discovered (or recently rediscovered) passions – let them know that that’s ok. People are going to be feeling these things anyway, so it’s better to have this as an open conversation rather than having to feel it’s something to hide away until the point of handing in their notice. It helps people to feel seen and you’re more likely to get more back in return.
3) Support employees to consider the alternatives
Allowing your employees to consider what other options they might have can be a really positive thing for both you and them. Offering something like career coaching services shows that you really value them as employees and support them on this journey of exploration. Giving people the support to explore alternatives and then coming up with a plan to make this a reality will mean you have more engaged staff, and a more visible succession plan that is likely to translate into reality. If you have a clearer idea of your employees’ future aspirations and goals you will be in a better position to help accommodate these within your organisation, reduce employee turnover, and attract the best talent from outside the organisation when needed because you will have so many success stories of internal promotion and development.
4) Accept that for some people it might be time to move on, so help them do this as your advocates
You might be thinking the huge risk in opening up this conversation or offering career coaching services to people during this time of transition is that they will leave, and that is always a possibility to consider. However, as Richard Branson once said, the best way to treat your employees is to “train them well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough that they don’t want to.” If you don’t invest in your people and support them on this journey they will likely leave anyway, possibly causing you a few headaches along the way as they come disengaged and this impacts their work and that of those around them, or resigning out of the blue, taking all of their knowledge and experience with them. If you do invest in them and help them identify future possibilities with a view to seeing how your organisation can accommodate these, you stand a much higher chance of retaining your star performers. And if they do choose to leave, at least they will be leaving you as advocates of your brand and ambassadors of your organisation, something not to be underestimated in this age of Glassdoor recommendations and prospective employee research.
Opening up the conversation about how your people have experienced the last 18 months and what they want from their future can be a really positive experience both for you and for them, increasing morale in your organisation and helping your employees evolve and thrive off the back of a turbulent and challenging period.
Rhiannon joined Connor, an executive outplacement service provider, where she leads on the content and delivery expertise for the outplacement proposition. She also supports people practically and emotionally by delivering one-to-one coaching and designing and delivering bespoke workshop solutions in areas such as finding a new role, setting up a business or transitioning to retirement.