A lot has been said and written about the new normal or what some authors call the next normal. Irrespective, leaders should remain central to effectively and efficiently guide the organisations through uncertain times. Leaders are expected to take decisions with many interdependencies that they do not have expertise in or control over, especially during this pandemic. The challenges are new every day because leaders do not know what to expect.
What leaders have known for a long time is that employees must be fast and nimble to get the business going. We know that leaders want things done yesterday so that the organisation can lead the competition. Business leaders yearn to be trend setters and the first in the market.
It does not mean that fast and agile does not have its place in the future. It simply means that with where we are now, we need to go slow to go fast.
Going slow … means that we need to address the first things first and take one thing at a time always keeping the big picture in mind. It is about balancing the business imperatives and the well-being of employees. Going slow is acknowledging that employees are central to the success of what you are building and for that matter, you need to tread carefully to take care of the most important asset, the human capital.
The current petitions on social media about returning to school show that parents will not release their children into the school environment unless the safety of their children is guaranteed. Needless to say, the employees have the same expectation that their employers should take care of their health and general well-being against the virus.
In 2015, Deloitte did a study with the London King College and they asked 321 employees from the energy, health and petroleum sectors: “if you are able to go to work during an extreme event, would you be willing to do so?” One employee’s response was telling: “if at any point I felt that (the organisation) were asking me to come in and didn’t have a particularly good reason, and weren’t necessarily putting my safety first, then I would definitely not come in”. The other employee said, “I think I’d be more worried about my children. It wouldn’t necessarily be about me coming into work, it would be about putting my children into school, because I’ve no idea where other parents were the day before or the week before”.
It does not mean that employees do not want to work, they have mixed feelings between economic sustenance and protecting their health. It is a challenge placed on employers to put employees and society first. It is about developing a tangible plan that addresses employee concerns, perceived or real.
Here are a few suggested guidelines as organisations gradually bring their employees into the workplace:
#1. Have someone in charge of the plan: Organisations should have someone in charge of the reintegration plan and dispel any signs of disorganisation and lack of direction. Employees need their confidence restored more than ever.
#2. Reassurance: Provide the reassurance and tools about safety so that employees know that they will be safe at work and that when they return home, their families will be safe as well.
#3. Educate: Organisations cannot take it for granted that employees know what to do. Continued investment in educating employees about hygiene should be treated as a matter of life and death.
#4. Empower managers: Help managers to spot behavioural and psychological conditions and be able to refer employees for assistance.
#5. Cut employees some slack: Allow employees to get their personal affairs in order, especially those parents who may not be able to work remotely. Schools have not re-opened, and children are still at home.
#6. Avail employee assistance program: How individuals react to stressful situations vary from person to person. Employers must extend the EAP service to employees and their families. Employers without such service should expedite its availability.
You can only go faster once you have taken care of the most important asset, the people. As I wrote in one of the previous articles, “organisations are not buildings and other assets on the balance sheet. Organisations are people and profits should not trump the lives of those who bring in the profits. Prioritise people above anything else”.
Tex Hlalele is a Life & Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author. Book Tex for speaking engagements and to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organizational advancement on +2764 656 6174 or visit http://www.dreamsmadepossible.co.za/contact.html. He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror.