by Adam O’Neill MBA, SPHR – Sr. Human Resources Consultant
Employees are the lifeblood of any company. Business leaders invest valuable resources recruiting, screening, hiring, training, and supporting each member of the “dream team” that makes the business thrive. When skies are clear and things are running smoothly, customers are happy, and business is great. But when a tempest brews in a team member’s life, how might their personal storm impact the company’s high-performing human capital investment? The answer depends on leadership’s actions.
If you are a leader at any level, here are 5 practical things you and your organization can do to help employees weather a storm:
- Know your employees and know what they’re capable of. Spend time getting to know your team members professionally and personally (arms-length and appropriate, of course). By doing so, you are better equipped to identify changes in behavior or emotions– either of which may indicate that the employee is going through an ordeal.
- Communicate. Solicit discussion and listen to what employees are telling you. Establish and promote an open-door policy. Listen much, speak little. We were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason. If not already doing so, implement routine communication tools that can help you stay in the know: one-on-ones, team meetings, suggestion box, focus groups, surveys, etc.
- Provide structure and guidance on job expectations. Do not just assume the employee wants to take time off or separate from their routine to address the situation they’re facing at home. Oftentimes, employees consider work a safe harbor from whatever torrent they’re going through, and they need the structure of work and demands of meeting deadlines to maintain some normalcy.
- Be honest about job performance. Just because a worker is having a bad day or week, doesn’t mean they can detach from their job or “check out” early while still clocked in. If they’re slacking, you owe it to the employee and the entire organization to address their performance (in private, if possible). There are really no performance secrets in the workplace, so simply an audible invitation to meet with the boss lets everyone know you’re taking action to address it.
- Be compassionate. Understanding that your employee is going through a tough time, it’s okay to extend a little grace. Many storms pass sooner than expected, and long-term benefits to the organizational culture and to company leadership are the likely outcomes. If you must discipline the employee, avoid the temptation to apply a one-size-fits-all approach, as every situation is different. Be fair and consistent but do so in a manner that is thoughtful and that considers the full context of events.
People are the most valuable asset to any organization, and turnover is very costly. It’s no surprise then that companies have a moral responsibility and an economic interest in helping their employees through personal trials. Successful business leaders anticipate these contingencies and take action that mitigates the impact to the company, retains human capital, and reinforces the loyalty and confidence necessary in any employer-employee relationship.
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