Managing Uncertainty During Uncertain Times

Posted in : HR Updates on 1 October 2020
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: HR Updates; Coronavirus; Employee Motivation; Employee Engagement

Most employers would struggle to disagree with the extent to which the current global pandemic has created huge uncertainty among their workforces and tested their business continuity plans to the limit. The news is dominated by reports of increasing infection rates, looming Covid restrictions, threats of further lockdowns and global economic decline. There is little doubt that such negativity filters down into organisations leading to increased feelings of anxiety.  In turn it is interesting to consider the link between such anxiety, uncertainty, and productivity levels.  It is therefore entirely possible that if employees are fearing for their professional and financial security, their commitment and performance will naturally suffer. But what steps can employers take to reduce the impact of the pandemic on staff morale and engagement?

Strong and consistent communication is particularly pertinent during these difficult times and should be open and honest.  Now is the time to remind staff of the organisation’s vision, mission and purpose.  Staff should be reminded of how important their work is in terms of delivering that purpose - in other words, the driving force behind why the organisation does what it does.  For Microsoft this is “to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more”. This is a great example of a motivating force that gets people out of bed in the morning!

Employers should also aim to reduce feelings of panic and keep employee morale up.  Staff should be made to feel valued, respected and be given the opportunity to ask questions without fear of repercussion.  Leaders should be transparent about the impact of the virus on business performance.  By avoiding such will only lead to feelings of mistrust and disengagement.  Where staff have genuine concerns, they should be listened to and consulted with on how to do things differently.  Many employees will have lost loved ones during recent months; some directly due to the virus so employers must be humble, human and kind, providing space to mourn.

Generally learning and development plans are side-lined during challenging times yet providing opportunities for growth will help to offset the stress and anxiety that comes with such alarming disruption and is essential for the longer-term survival of the organisation. Not only that but continuing to invest in peoples’ development will send a clear message to staff that they matter and are valued.   

Other significant measures to help employees cope with this pandemic include allowing people to work from home, conducting regular check-ins, disseminating safety and wellness advice, suspending travel, and modifying absence policies and sick pay provision to avoid employees facing financial hardship.  Line managers should also be supported to ensure that they have the information, resources, skills, and support they need to help their direct reports get through such anxious times.

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis is the ultimate test of management and leadership capability.  There is no manual on what to do in the midst of the 2020 Coronavirus, however in the words of billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, how companies treat workers during this pandemic could define their brand 'for decades'. A good starting point is talking to our people in an authentic and honest manner and involve them in decision-making. This will go a long way towards making them feel important and boosting their morale.

Useful reading

Employee Concerns About COVID-19


This article is correct at 01/10/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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