It is safe to say this new decade has been a turbulent one so far. Unless you’ve been living completely off the grid, you’re aware of the COVID-19 pandemic. First emerging in Wuhan, China, the deadly virus ripped through the global population and economy. Millions of people have become casualties of the novel coronavirus. Hundreds of millions have been infected so far.
The massive scope and scale of the infection, not to mention the presence of many new vectors, have made this pandemic an unprecedented global crisis. However, human resilience and ingenuity remain, as always, our best defense. And while the impact has been tragic and staggering, people, businesses, governments, and economies are fighting back.
Of course, a recruiter or a staffing agency can still point out a common factor among the candidates they see these days – whether a candidate is currently employed or unemployed, the underlying fear and uncertainty have had a widespread impact on morale. Low worker morale isn’t unheard of, although the current scale is certainly unprecedented among the total American workforce.
However, the solution can be summed up in a single word: “empathy”. In 2021, more than a year after COVID-19 became a global health crisis, empathy among managers and the workplace as a whole is even more crucial than ever. Here are a few ways you can position your business and workplace accordingly:
Be Open to Listening with Honest and Upfront Responses
If you work in medical or health services, full disclosure is something you expect from your new hires and recruiters, as well as any third-party medical staffing solutions you may be using. This can later include the new hire’s teammates or line managers as well. Likewise, you should be open to offering the same level of transparency and honesty that you expect.
Empathic managers are often the ones open to listening; in other words, offering a safe space to their subordinates to frankly voice their concerns or fears. However, simply listening and brushing off concerns with a “corporate-speak” answer can often prove to be apathy rather than empathy. To create a more empathetic relationship and culture, managers also need to respond with the same frankness and honesty. Honesty is by far one of the strongest foundations to build a relationship of trust.
Remain both Accessible and Visible to Your Workers
Even if you communicate an open-door policy to your team, or even during the initial onboarding aspect of your talent acquisition strategies, workers will remain hesitant to approach managers for any number of reasons. Many workers will try to power through periods of intense uncertainty and only add to their stress, further impacting an already tough climate.
Even before COVID-19, workers would keep symptoms of stress, anxiety, and burnout hidden in the workplace. During the pandemic, with businesses facing uncertainties of their own, many workers can understandably choose to remain silent despite being expressly allowed to approach. The best remedy to this is to communicate and reinforce accessibility, but also need to be as visible as possible to your team. An open-door policy means very little if you’re not in your office most of the day.
Focus on Customer Experience Feedback to Identify Distressed Workers
Customer experience is a key indicator of how satisfied customers are with your brand. It can also offer valuable insights into how employees who interact with customers are performing. A bad customer experience is undesirable, but it could point towards a deeper issue: a worker or workers with severely depleted morale. Happy employees generate happy customers. Therefore, your efforts to improve your customer service can often overlap with your efforts to create a more empathetic workplace.
A bad review may not always need a full-blooded workplace investigation, but it can often lead you to a worker in severe distress, whom you can then present with support and even counseling options. The fact that you, a manager, respond with concern rather than punitive action can go a long way to motivating the larger workforce, not just a specific worker.
Replace Workplace Dogmas with a Broader Creative Freedom
Just because COVID-19 is the most pressing concern right now for most businesses does not mean that historical workplace problems have been resolved. Creative freedom and autonomy have been linked time and time again to highly motivated workers and significantly improved output.
However, businesses are typically cautious about trusting workers with autonomy. While that may be a fair approach if you have a team of slackers, it only serves as a limiting factor and a de-motivator for workers who genuinely have much more value to add to their current role.
Sticking to conventional workplace dogmas and micromanaging, on the other hand, will only limit these workers and reduce their potential in the workplace. Moreover, workers who are aware of what they can offer may become severely distressed and dissatisfied.
Skilled and talented workers, especially those with drive and ambition, thrive on accomplishment. Given autonomy and creative freedom, such workers can frequently come up with innovative solutions to problems and improve workflow efficiency. It takes an empathic manager to recognize what team members will do the most with autonomy and more freedom.
Help Workers Acquire and Develop New Skills
Finally, the most empathic thing a manager can do for a worker’s long-term career is to help them enrich their skillset. This can involve offering workers the opportunity to develop and hone their current skills, as well as acquire new and valuable skills.
It is possible to leverage many skills for income such as vCISO services, even if the employee doesn’t remain with you long-term. But they will still appreciate the opportunity that you offer, and see it as a way to strengthen themselves for any future uncertainty.