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How HR Can Help Employees Stay On Track In Uncertain Times

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

How HR Can Help Employees Stay On Track In Uncertain Times

HR teams are the first gateway in any organisation to navigate gruelling business climates and manage people and organisations through critical times. And it is no news that the present business environment is a demanding one for employees world over.

Uncertainty in an organisation tends to amplify disagreements, and discordance among employees; this further fuels ambiguity and makes it difficult for employees to trust the workplace culture and its leadership, which impacts their ability to perform at their highest levels. In such an environment, HR is stretched and pulled in every direction to meet the challenging demands from the employer as well as the employees.

Traditionally, the HR role is defined by the size of the organisation and the number of employees. However, in the current pandemic times, not the size of the organisation but the business life-cycle at which it is matters the most.

Aligning itself with a company’s strategic needs is not only a matter of necessity but also a matter of urgency for HR teams. Therefore, HR functions will accordingly need to step up to become a business partner and a support system in the true sense to not only maintain productivity and keep teams on track but also to support the business itself to achieve specific goals.

Here are a few critical points for HR professionals to ensure teams stay on track and achieve goals in uncertain times.

# Identify and reiterate goals clearly: –

You may have the best team working for you, but if you do not have clearly defined goals and objectives in place, you would slowly kill their enthusiasm. In the hybrid work environment with its complexities of remote working, lack of clarity towards goals can be an even bigger challenge.

Insight for HR: Employees drift from their goals when the goals are not communicated regularly in a manner that can be understood.

Think about it, why would a person not do something if they knew exactly what they have to do? Of course, that leads us to the next point. But just before that, whether you are an organisation with 10 employees or 10,000; every employee’s individual goals add up and only then does the organisation finally achieves its goal.

In my experience, all most all employees find it hard to articulate clear goals. There is a need for HR to increase the focus on enabling all employees to understand what are goals, how to assess if the goal is realistic, learn how to break down large objectives into smaller goals for their teams and themselves. And more importantly, come up with ways to ensure that these goals are looked at and communicated as often as possible so that employees don’t lose sight of it.

# Identify possible risks and barriers:

Once the goal is clear, it is of utmost importance that any risk of failure and barriers to success are identified and neutralised. The most important indicators to watch out for are overall performance trends. Trends are usually signs that there is something wrong with a process and would require more work as compared to one-off interventions.

However, for result-driven businesses were leveraging on employees’ performance is of key importance, skill gaps are the biggest detriment to attaining business goals. Though, there can be other barriers as well, such as, poor job analysis, mismatch of role and skills, demotivation or even resistance to change.

Insight for HR: A skill can be acquired but it cannot be applied in a non-conducive work environment.

Often time’s businesses want employees to learn a large number of skills, which in itself is an unrealistic demand. Time, effort and money are spent on providing additional training, courses and seminars that will hone their skills and expand their knowledge. But unless they have an environment that allows them to thrive, chances are you will see little or temporary or maybe no change in behavior.  HR should deep dive to identify the real barriers and then develop a plan of action to strategically overcome them, and as harsh as it may sound, not fix every problem with a skill training.

# Link goals to incentives and rewards:

In current times, the dynamics of a workplace have changed. The entire structures of offices have changed, business objective have transformed, flexible work is encouraged, and the gig economy has come into the picture. In such times HR has to overhaul rewards and incentive structure as well.

Unfortunately, too many businesses rely solely on salary increments to incentivize employees and on bonuses to reward employees. In doing so, they’re in danger of driving people out of the business rather than retaining them for the long-term. Incentives are designed to motivate the employee to perform better, while rewards are designed to show gratitude for employees and to increase loyalty among staff. When a business goes above and beyond with its incentives and rewards, it shows it cares about its staff and wants them to stay for as long as possible.

Insight for HR: Given the recent pandemic, the hierarchy of needs has once again changed amongst employees.

HR can restructure rewards to acknowledge exemplary behaviour, celebrate small wins. Explain that what will be considered as mediocre and define a threshold. Money shouldn’t be the primary way of rewarding staff. Getting creative about ways of acknowledging and providing recognition is critical. It could be, for example, giving paid days off, , sponsoring a suitable course, offer a skill development opportunity, or doing something that provides the employee with a unique and personal experience. The employee should feel rewarded.

# Ensure employees are motivated to achieve goals:

Motivation is very short-lived so HR will have to keep innovating especially in a virtual work environment. The happier your employees are at work, the more efficient your business flow will be. Therefore HR needs to be in touch with the real-time happening in the organisation. This can be done through employee pulse checks and a softer approach to productivity. But what happens when the overall employee motivation starts to decline even with good conditions in place?

HR managers are responsible for measuring and maintaining the positive mood company-wide and are the liaison between employees and management, especially in larger organisations. Identifying issues from both employee and employer perspective objectively, open communication, rewarding employees and promoting work-life balance are some of the ways HR can effectively ensure employees stay motivated. One way to evaluate practices is one-on-one reviews. This could be very effective to know about employee dissatisfaction and its attributes.

Insight for HR: Merely taking away unpleasant aspects of one’s work or work environment does not amount to motivation.

HR must take into cognisance that a critical component of ‘motivation’ in a given role is ‘organisational fitment’. People who do not feel personally aligned with the organisation’s values and mode of operation may not be working to their full potential, and may eventually seek to change jobs to join a more compatible organisation. Also, people who are feeling overworked and overwhelmed are often doing work that doesn’t come naturally to them. HR will have to do little work on motivation if they ensure they have the right talent in the right place and at the right time.

HR departments play the most critical role in managing emotions within the organisations. In times of uncertainty, the responsibility to keep employees happy rests with HR. It is a lot of work; it involves rebuilding existing practices to suit current work conditions, and develop new practices proactively to tide over uncertain times. Often there is pressure or sometimes even resistance from not just the employees but also senior leaders. I strongly recommend that in such a case, building a strong case driven by data, leading with empathy, providing guidance through change, providing clarity and purpose and safety and wellness are crucial factors which HR must actively offer to employees, as well as to the employer

At Yellow Spark, we help you navigate employee engagement through uncertainty and crisis. To know more write to us at contact@yellowspark.in.

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.