Why us it anytime something extraordinary happens, the “anti-change” elements of our organizations say, “Well now, we have to be careful, we don’t want to be driven by emotion?”
People who say, “let’s not be driven by emotion” are typically change-resistant. This “catchphrase” is a way to stop innovation and change conversation. They see “emotions” as knee jerk response to an event. But the reality is, emotions drive change.
Let’s look at current events through this prism of emotions. We all saw how COVID-19 suddenly changed our outlook for 2020. All of a sudden, those BHAGs and aspirational dreams ended up on the back burner, some temporarily, and some strategic projects became must-do tactics completed more quickly than we ever thought possible.
Then, the economy crashed. This doubling down of disruption now sent some of the remaining strategic plans to the waste heap.
Then, in horror, we watched as another black man as murdered on our streets. This disruption sent all of us on a roller coaster ride of outrage, depression, anxiety, and fear. Our morals, our sense of right-and-wrong, were insulted, our emotions were unhinged.
All of this happened, many of our employees were trying to perform in a remote work-at-home environment, often sharing this “workspace” with a spouse, roommate, or significant other while taking care of children and homeschooling.
Employee morale and effectiveness were experiencing the perfect storm. And this all happened while sheltering in place, often without emotional or moral support from fellow employees, managers, friends, and even family.
If ever there was a time to be “Driven by Emotions,” it is NOW!
Bold, strategic steps are required to move forward from this perfect storm. But, bold strategies and a bold communications plan and human resource effort must also happen to make the necessary progress into the future.
What are these bold and strategic steps?
- Develop a plan that protects the health of our employees, members, and the community. Sure, you can follow the CDC recommendations for your state, county, or city, but is that enough. Those steps are suggested by the CDC to protect each other from COVID-19. But, in these times, we need a plan that is doing everything possible to protect these stakeholders from fears of racism, misogyny, religious, and sexual preference biases. Human Resource leaders need to take active and purposeful steps to guarantee that every employee and member feels safe and protected. This effort must include a process for swift research and action on any activities that cause an individual to feel unsafe. A communication plan must consist of what is acceptable behaviors and what the consequences of non-compliance are.
- The mental health of employees must become a strategic initiative. Throughout this “sheltering at home” time, we may have many employees that are struggling emotionally, morally, and psychologically. Resources to provide aid and assistance to all employees must be made available and broadly communicated. Whether the employee has returned to the office or not, they need to have access to mental health support. Mental health is a very private conversation, and employees need to have absolute assurances that if they access these services, it will be confidential and not impact their career trajectory. This anonymity becomes part of the communication strategy.
- There needs to be a strategy and supporting tactics clarifying the future of work from home plans. Most organizations will find five kinds of employees:
- Ones that prefer to work from home and are equally or more productive
- Ones that prefer to work from home but are not productive
- Ones that would like the option to work from home some days, but not all days
- Ones that prefer to work from the office
- Ones that MUST work from the office (typically member-facing employees)
- Human Resources needs a process to determine, employee by employee, what options are best for them and the organization. In deploying this plan, the organization is going to coach and mentor managers that are challenged by trusting their staff in the work-from-home environment.
- Performance management, coaching, and mentoring needs to change for most credit unions. Managing a remote staff is a different skill set than “managing by walking around.” Goal and expectation setting needs to be more precise and specific. The ability to monitor and measure goal progress needs to be more frequent. Managers need the training to know how to:
- Develop their emotional quotient skills
- Learn how to listen actively
- Learn to listen to non-verbal cues in the absence of body language
- Learn how to establish a team spirit
- Learn to identify when an employee is not “present” in their job and diagnose what is wrong.
- Clear policies and practices will need to set for working from home technology, hardware, software, support, and connectivity. Budgets for home offices will need to be established, and reimbursements for internet and telecom connectivity should be put in place. Keep in mind; it may be cheaper to invest $1000 in a home office set-up than expanding a physical back office.
- If an employee chooses to work from home but may want or be required to come to work in the office, it will be necessary to have shared workstations, so the employee is fully functional while on-premises.
The next time someone says to you, “let’s not act emotionally” when facing a crisis, push back. If there was ever a time in our history that requires an emotional, visceral response, it is NOW!