PositivePeople July 23, 2020 No Comments

How to Build Empathy into your Restructure

How to Build Empathy into your Restructure

As a result of the impact of COVID 19 on organisations, the reality is that many businesses are needing to restructure to remain viable. For those employees affected, a job loss, in addition to the multi-faceted anxiety that this pandemic has created, can be devastating.   

We all necessarily have to take note of the legalities of how to implement a change process in a way that is fair and minimises the risk of any personal grievances being raised.

Rigidly following due process does minimise potential risk. It can also sometimes leave the impression, with both those affected and those employees who remain in the business, that the employer is cold hearted and uncaring. Given the COVID 19 situation, these perceptions can be especially strong.

Change processes are more successful for all involved with empathy built in along the way.

The feeling that exists within the organisation during the restructuring process and afterwards is a clear indicator of morale and also how employees view how the process has been handled and communicated. This in turn affects engagement and productivity, as well as potentially leaving an indelible mark, either positive or negative, on the organisation’s employment brand.

So, the ideal is to strike an even balance by following a fair process, but doing so with a very strong sense of caring and empathy for all of those affected, both directly and indirectly.

 

Outlined below are some practical pointers of how to show caring during the process:

  • Ensure that you plan the restructure very carefully so that it is professionally done
  • Make sure that an essential element of your plan includes a filter of empathy and caring throughout
  • Develop well thought out and carefully worded communications. As with any communications on a difficult subject, the facts have to be stated, but it is how you say and communicate them that makes the difference. Maintaining confidentiality is important. However, it is helpful to have others in the team understanding the need to be supportive of those directly involved
  • Take the time to put yourself into others’ shoes and tread lightly
  • After outlining the proposal, offer to allow impacted individuals to go home for the rest of the day or deliver the proposal mid-afternoon and let impacted employees go home then
  • Understand that different people respond differently and take that into account at the time
  • Outline access to the company EAP service or in the absence of this, the Government funded ‘Need to Talk? 1737’ service for counselling support
  • At the proposal meeting, offer time to employees during the work day to get their thoughts straight around what feedback they may wish to provide and prepare for the feedback meeting. Arrange cover if they need it
  • Realise it can be a difficult process for all concerned – CEO, Manager implementing the change, impacted employees and other employees. Be available to hear and discuss concerns from anyone throughout the process. If the issues raised are beyond your skill set, encourage people to access EAP or 1737 or seek other appropriate outside assistance
  • Sometimes the content of a proposal may take a while to process. Be available for additional questions or meetings if you think your employees require it
  • For those whose roles are disestablished, provide support with up-dating CV’s, LinkedIn profiles and practical guidelines on navigating the job market at this time

Separating from a business is counter-intuitive for a human being’s natural desire for social connection and approval. Showing caring and empathy never goes amiss, and can work towards reducing the stress for all concerned. Apart from being the right thing to do, especially at this time, it is also sets your organisation up as one that will be respected for its ethos.

This will have positive spin offs of loyalty, commitment and engagement from those remaining.

If you need help navigating restructuring, please make contact with us. Positive People have over 25 years of experience partnering with medium sized businesses. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz 

PositivePeople July 3, 2019 No Comments

Managing your Team with Empathy

Managing your Team with Empathy:

Providing real support during traumatic times

 

Life events wash over all of us.

Keeping a team engaged and enthused despite outside personal pressures can be challenging for even the most skilled Manager. No matter how great your culture or team environment, when employees are faced with a major life event how you support them through this period can make or break their commitment to you and your business.

We have all had team members who have children with serious illnesses, overseas bereavements or other traumatic events to deal with. Company policies often don’t provide guidance on how to balance the organisation’s needs and the needs of the individual.

There can be a lot of pressure and stress involved in traumatic personal situations.

In circumstances like these, employees need to deal with the personal situation facing them, ensure they keep earning, as well as making sure they are not letting you and the team down. How you manage this is critical. No amount of future development opportunities offered can ever recover the loss of trust that occurs if their situation isn’t empathetically managed.

Building a business that balances empathy, fairness and overall standards, while allowing flexibility to manage at an individual level is key to making this a success.

 

To do this well we suggest:

  1. Know your team

Encouraging genuine relationships where your team are comfortable to let you know about personal challenges. This helps you to manage these situations for best results for the individual and business. If you have a team member who suddenly starts disappearing at 5pm on the dot this should raise questions – perhaps they just have a gym class to get to but also, could they be getting home quickly to help a sick partner with the kids? Do you know and would they feel comfortable telling you?

 

  1. Encourage the use of EAP or specialist support services

Managers aren’t counsellors and there is no expectation that you can help your team process grief or deal with complex mental health issues. You do however want to make sure expert support is available for these situations, so that your team members are able to return to full health.

 

  1. Allow Management discretion in the application of policies

Having fair guidelines for everyone ensures an even playing field in your organisation. However, there must be room to make exceptions. If you have a team member having important medical treatment do your Managers have the flexibility to change shift patterns to accommodate this? If a team member suffers the loss of a child can extended bereavement leave or AL be taken? We don’t think any of us would expect 3 days leave would be enough to cope with a situation like this. Company policies should not hamstring Managers from making sensible, compassionate decisions.

 

  1. Consider extensions of leave entitlements for special circumstances

You can allow anything that is over and above minimum statutory entitlements. You don’t have to wait until 6 months for bereavement or sick leave and you can give additional leave in special circumstances. You have a range of options available to you should it be needed, so making sure you consider this and have flexibility to support your team members through tragedy or traumatic events can make the world of difference for them.

People have long memories, and even though work is important it quickly takes a back seat when something personally traumatic happens.

Having Company standards but managing individual pressures will help to gain future commitment and engagement from your whole team and is – in the end – the right thing to do.

Positive People have 24 years’ experience helping organisations develop policies that provide clear expectations and help to get the best from your team. Contact us now if you need help.