Category: Business News

Managing employee wellbeing and resilience during and after the coronavirus pandemic is vital to business sustainability

Employee Wellbeing and Resilience now and in the post-Covid 19 era

Managing employee wellbeing and resilience during and after the coronavirus pandemic is vital to business sustainability

The capacity of individuals to recover and resume normalcy is considered to be psychological resilience in positive psychology. Adapting to changes caused by stressful events such as the coronavirus pandemic in a flexible way and recovering from negative emotional experiences shows psychological resilience and strengthens the mental and physical wellbeing of the individual.

As the Covid 19 pandemic continues to rage on, its impact on work and society has brought us to the reality of a new normal. Employees are facing the serious challenge of working from home while managing responsibilities of children learning remotely or taking care of other family members who may need care. According to labour market think tank Eurofound, European countries report high levels of people working from home with The Republic of Ireland showing one of the highest rates during the Covid-19 crisis, other countries with high rates of WFH include Belgium, Italy, Spain, and France.

This stressful period is stretching the wellbeing of workers and to help them maintain their wellbeing and bounce back, employee resilience must be addressed and supported by organisations. Consideration must be given to the impact of not only the challenges that employees face on the work front but also with families. How they cope at home, the challenges of home-schooling children while trying to work and meet set targets, the impacts of isolation on the wellbeing of employees who may be living alone, and how employers can support and build their capacity to cope are questions that organisations must address.

Resilience can help employees get through and overcome the challenges that we face due to the pandemic. But resilience is not something inherent in people, it is built over time as experiences shape one’s unique, individual emotional and physical actions and reactions. This is why people respond to stress and adversity like that from the current public health pandemic differently.

Managing employees working remotely, one of the challenges for organisations has been keeping employees engaged and supporting them in performing their roles. Motivation has been one of the focuses of line managers and HR as employees working in isolation have lost the social interaction with colleagues and are in some cases experiencing a sense of loss. Before the pandemic, the average worker spent more time at work than on any other daily activity, this connection to and support from colleagues, and leaders was a key factor in employee wellbeing.

Employer support is vital now and for the future of the workplace:

Employers need to put new structures in place to support employees working remotely now and in the future, as the post-Covid-19 workplace is likely to be a hybrid involving onsite, home, and remote working. Leadership on employees’ wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic is significant, especially related to:

Resilience and employees’ life satisfaction, creativity, job performance and commitment, and helping and safeguarding behaviour.

Leadership in the perspectives for developing organisational resilience cannot be overemphasised. This ensures business continuity and career sustainability within the current and anticipated business context. It also provides the opportunity for learning and adapting strategy which will in some cases lead to business and or process transformation.

Employers must protect the psychological safety of their workers to ensure continuity and productivity. They do have a legal duty of care for all workers, including those working remotely or from home. It is important to support employees who are now home-schooling their children and encourage them to practice self-care. Ensure that they are aware of and take advantage of employee benefits such as employee assistance programs, mental health counselling, and paid time off.

To support and build resilience, the following must be reinforced for all employees:

Positive Emotions: Overall, positive emotions enhance employees’ ability to thrive. It is important to support employees by reducing sources of stress so that negative emotions are reduced. Activities and programs can be developed to enhance employee engagement and interactions even while working from home or remotely. Communication is key to helping workers remain connected to colleagues and the organisation. As it is impossible to replicate the physical office environment, employers must promote accessibility for employees to connect with colleagues and allow time for virtual interaction and encourage responsive relationships.

Engagement: Employee engagement practices must be at the core of HR activities at this time. One of the negative impacts of the pandemic on employees is the isolation and loss of connection and socialisation. Organisations must ensure that employees do not feel dissociated from their teams. Employers must keep workers informed of current situations, line managers must touch base with their teams and ensure that no one feels like they are uninformed about activities and their opinions are not considered in decisions taken.

Relationships: encourage employees to keep in touch and connect. Employers must consider actions that encourage employees’ collaboration on projects more effectively by providing and creating access to activities that promote meaningful conversations and foster authentic connections.

Meaning: what are the things that matter most to people? For some, it is family, work-life balance, security, or a sense of achievement. Whatever constitutes meaning to employees, it is important to elevate this and use it as a springboard for purposeful actions and behavioural changes. Through communication – questionnaires, and surveys, employers can ascertain what motivates employees and provide support for them as required. As we continue to live with the coronavirus, employers need to support workers to find or maintain and draw from what matters most to them to keep going. This will of course involve implementing wellbeing activities; sending employee’s health education and wellbeing emails to preventative services in the virtual workplace, encourage creativity with virtual collaboration spaces, and creating a virtual safe and confidential space for employees to discuss challenges and seek advice/support.

Accomplishment: Now more than ever, it is important to recognise small wins, appreciating that extra mile walked, getting kids to complete homework and helping them improve their use of technology for their online school work, connecting with prospective clients, completing a project despite the current challenges, and identifying a new skill. Employers must give feedback and acknowledge the accomplishments of employees. The pandemic has been mentally and emotionally tasking for a lot of workers and it is all the more important for employers to acknowledge and reward accomplishments.

The way employers respond and treat their employees during this period will be remembered as consequential in the long term. These times provide opportunities for organisations to show commitment to employee personal and professional development. This will not only ensure employee engagement and loyalty; it will also improve the company brand reputation and may prove beneficial from talent acquisition and retention perspective for years to come.

 

Written by Clementina Mustapha, InterSearch Ireland

Clementina Mustapha

Career Sustainability: Relevance for the Future

Unintended benefits of ‘sheltering’ due to COVID-19 is providing opportunities for reflection on work-life (past, present, and future), and the opportunity to re-evaluate career and personal goals.

2020 has been filled with life-changing experiences, from families, schools, work and society. We have had to look at the way we live and interact. We have been confronted with the challenges of devising ways to cope with the new normal. Family celebrations have had to be reimagined, and public health safety is now at the forefront when planning any gatherings.

In planning for the future (post-COVID-19), it is important to consider that unintended benefits of ‘sheltering’ have included opportunities for reflection on work-life (past, present, and future), and the opportunity to re-evaluate career and personal goals. It has brought to the forefront the significance and renewed our view of community interconnectivity, highlighting the greater context in which we live and work. It has brought society to the realisation that no segment operates independently of others. The lockdown has highlighted the common denominator for all: family – at the crucial time when all had to take shelter, everything fell back on family and the community. This reinforced the links among work, social, and family life on an unprecedented scale. Moving on from the first phase of the pandemic, everyone has been changed by the experience, and that will be reflected in the way we think about and approach work going forward.

Public administrators now have to iterate strategy implementation plans to ensure safety whilst ensuring that goals are achieved. In the work environment, the challenge for individuals and organisations will be to ensure that careers are relevant for the future. It begs the question, therefore, of how one develops and retrains relevance and career sustainability.

Simply put, a sustainable career refers to the ability of the individual to maintain long term relevance. Core to this is the ability to retain employability, performance, maintenance of physical and mental wellbeing as well as balancing professional and personal development. Practically, sustainable careers cover the entire lifetime of an individual’s career, consolidating the past, investing in the present, and creatively innovating for the future.

Considering the current public health crisis and the impacts on the socio-economic environment, organisations must give due attention to sustainable career development. This is because it is critical for the resilience of employees in an increasingly complex but unpredictable career environment. The quest for career relevance should not be the sole responsibility of the individual but must have input from all stakeholders – the organisation, government, and the labour market.

Building sustainable careers are critical for economic substantiality. Having a holistic approach to sustainable careers is important to ensure that influential factors associated with stakeholders positioned in multiple contexts are addressed. Organisations invested in retaining talent and fostering a sustainable culture can assist in this process by offering support and exploring options to keep employees engaged and growing over time.

The tendency is to approach sustainable careers from the individual perspective, considering the individual as the main career player. However, at the same time, each individual’s career is inherently connected with, influenced by, and has implications for other players and contexts. The challenge of sustainability encompasses more than individual career management. It requires the active involvement of all parties involved, such as family and peers, managers, employers, academia, and society.

It is beneficial for individuals to interact with their surrounding stakeholders when working towards achieving relevance and managing changing motivations and goals throughout their careers. This ensures the realisation and maintenance of job fit.

Human Resource Development can play an important role in helping individuals recover and sustain their careers post COVID-19. It may involve providing training to assist employees in developing additional skills or to reskill for new roles, as well as helping individuals with their future career plans, including explorations of realistic options that help build sustainable careers. The use of technology is a good starting point. Employee engagement and involvement in organisational planning provides the opportunity to assess and evaluate current skillsets and plan for career development to meet future needs.

A key aspect of building a sustainable post-COVID19 career, will be learning from this experience and applying that knowledge. HR has an opportunity at this moment to play a significant role in helping individuals and organisations find and support resilience, manage the shocks and uncertainty, replenish reduced resources, and build more sustainable career cultures.

Written by Clementina Mustapha, InterSearch Ireland.

Clementina Mustapha

Leading your team effectively post COVID-19 lockdown

The current healthcare crisis has brought with it a lot of uncertainty for organisations. Leaders have had to adapt to new ways of thinking and many are now managing a remote work-force. As Europe and other parts of the world cautiously reopen from the Covid-19 lockdown, implementation of changes in processes, activities, and interactions in workplaces are now front and center on the to-do list of managers and leaders within organisations. It is time to test run the strategies developed to cope with the new normal. While it may not always work out on the first trial run, it is important to ensure that one of the core elements of leadership – communication – is effectively used during these trying times. Thinking outside the box in terms of how to adapt to new changes is vital and new ideas and processes must be explored. Organisations must be creative and innovative in adapting to the new normal. Employees must be encouraged to be part of the planning process in order to keep them motivated and feeling more valued.

Communication

Organisations must have in place coherent and realistic action plans. It is important to communicate how certain changes will impact on the performance of employees. Acknowledge the challenges and have in place a communication loop where all can participate and contribute. Managers must provide clear and updated information to their teams on the challenges posed to the organisation and the steps that are proposed to overcome them. They must ensure that everyone is clear on the lines of communication, from bottom up. The importance of joint thinking is key to successfully evolving to manage the new normal.

Flexibility and Empathy

Public health experts have been increasingly learning new details about the virus and setting out advice and guidelines based on new knowledge. Companies therefore must learn to adapt, reiterate and continually develop policies that ensure the health and wellbeing of employees while maintaining and possibly improving bottom lines. Regular updates are necessary to alleviate feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Employees have responsibilities outside of work so it is important to understand their stresses and worries at this time. In implementing new policies and strategies, leaders must be empathetic and personal, and recognise that family challenges have increased due to the impact of the coronavirus. Some people have sick loved ones, have not had time to mourn lost friends and relatives, and perhaps are struggling with the upheavals caused by the pandemic in their lives due to the loss of what we had all considered as “normal” before Covid 19.

Business Continuity 

Organisations cannot afford to be complacent at this time. Business continuity must be at the core of all decision making. They must now begin to look at their business plans and objectives, explore new opportunities, and discuss how available resources can be used to develop new revenue streams. On top of this, workplace practices should ensure limited risk and exposure to employees. Prepare and adapt to the new normal. Where possible, companies need to be open and honest about concerns and the potential challenges the organisation could face as a result of new policies. Whilst this can cause some worry, employees will be prepared and will be engaged in problem-solving. Regardless of the challenges posed by the new normal, leaders must continue to guide and empower their team towards a successful future.

Written by:

Clementina Mustapha and Eimear O’Driscoll

Executive Search Researcher’s at InterSearch Ireland

Clementina MustaphaEimear O’ Driscoll

Why is embracing change so important?

Embracing and adapting to change is vital in today’s business world to thrive through disruption. Below are some positive outcomes for leaders and organisations that welcome and encourage change.

Competitive Advantage

To adapt is to succeed. Leaders who embrace change instead of resisting it are those who will be ahead in the market. Taking risks is important for maintaining or creating competitive edge, particularly in this ever-changing world where technological applications are evolving rapidly and cannot be avoided.

Continuous Improvement

While the level of change needed will differ from business to business and depend on industry sector, change is and always will be essential for continuous improvement and business continuity. This may require new skill sets or up-skilling of your current team. Either way, employees need to be up to date with new and improved procedures.

Innovative Workforce

Rigid work environments and practices will not lead to success in today’s changing world. Employees must see change as necessary for growth. Having an adaptable work-force that is accustomed to finding different solutions when faced with dilemmas will encourage innovative behaviors and actions.

Helps Build Resilience

The stronger an organisation is at adapting to change, the quicker it can recover when a crisis or challenge strikes. Organisations and leaders that are capable of dealing with complex change situations and who embrace them with enthusiasm are more likely to have adaptable and resilient teams willing to take risks associated with the required change.

Improved Morale

Certain changes whether big or small, may face resistance. If teams feel part of the consultation process and contribute to the development of the change strategy, they are more likely to accept and embrace the change process. This, along with upskilling and learning opportunities, will positively impact morale and engagement during the transition period.

Organisational Growth

The impact of change can be significant on organisational growth, from revenue to reputation to employee headcount.  Organisations seen to be positively adapting to change and reaping the benefits, become more attractive to current and prospective employees, customers and clients.

 

Written by Eimear O’ Driscoll,

Executive Search Researcher, InterSearch Ireland

Eimear O’ Driscoll

 

 

Onboarding – A Critical Aspect of the Recruitment Process – A Discussion with Micheál Coughlan, Managing Partner of InterSearch Ireland

Onboarding is a process that ensures the smooth transition and integration of an employee into a new role, organisation, and culture. Efficient onboarding does this quickly and painlessly for all stakeholders.

This process does not commence at the offer stage, onboarding must start at the onset of the recruitment process. Where there has been an identification of a gap in manpower, the onboarding process should begin.

Micheál Coughlan, Managing Partner of InterSearch Ireland discusses the importance of effective onboarding with Clementina Mustapha, Executive Search Specialist at Intersearch Ireland.

See excerpt from the interview below

As an Executive Search firm, what role does Onboarding play in the recruitment of senior executives?

Micheál: “Onboarding is a vital aspect of the recruitment process not only for senior executives but really across all levels of recruitment. The purpose is primarily to develop and implement employee engagement even before they commence their employment with the new organisation. When a company seeks to bring in a new person for a leadership role, this process becomes much more important, you want an executive who believes in your organisation, is confident that s/he is making the right decision to move from current company to yours and that you welcome the opportunity to explore the vast experience that they bring with them in furtherance of your organisational goals.

At InterSearch Ireland, Onboarding is a vital part of the candidate experience. Our processes are geared towards ensuring that the candidate understands the role that is under consideration, the responsibilities, and requirements but most significantly, the organisation that we are presenting. As an executive search firm, we are not only looking to place leaders with our clients, but we understand the unique positions of our clients in their respective industries. Companies are competing for leaders and professionals in the same talent pool and it is important that we know what makes our clients the preferred choice for a prospective employee. Therefore, for us, onboarding begins before winning an assignment; we research the client organisation and industry to get an insight into what makes them different and how this will translate into a compelling factor for candidates to explore and indicate interest in opportunities within the company.”

 

Would you then say that the Executive Search firm, although has no input in client strategic plans, product or services, but in searching for the right leader, has to present the client attributes to prospective candidates?

Micheál: “I would not go as far as saying that we are advertisers on behalf of our clients, however, in collaboration with clients, we are able to understand their plans and where they expect prospective leaders to fit in and possibly how they are able to work towards the achievement of existing objectives or develop and implement new strategies. So, we do need a clear understanding of what the client is looking to achieve; short, medium- and long-term plans and what they aim to achieve within the industry.

This is key in our research and targeting of prospective candidates. Remember that these candidates are experienced leaders and they understand the industry, the gaps in processes, product and services in the market. They can identify aspects of a company’s strategy that meets their own personal and professional aspirations. This is really what we aim for at the initial stage of an assignment; to understand our client’s position, their goals and the roadmap that they have set to achieve set goals.”

 

How will you describe the relationship between the Client and InterSearch Ireland with regards to the onboarding process?

Micheál: “Based on our values and processes, our approach is one of collaboration. To do this, we maintain a proactive communication loop with the client. This ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the process, actions, and feedback. With clarity, open and frequency of feedback, the client is involved in the onboarding process because they do have the opportunity to direct the narrative especially in giving the candidate a first-hand impression of their organisation.

Another area of collaboration is in our analytical reporting. We assess and evaluate role requirements based on market trends. Factors such as salary and benefits, location/relocation, candidate’s unique circumstances- relocating family, schools, job opportunity for a spouse among others will determine a candidate’s willingness to move. Our relationship with the client organisation through HR or the hiring manager ensures that they have a clear understanding of the talent pool available to them. The client is also able to objectively asses the challenges that they face in attracting the desirable leader and sometimes, they work out arrangements to accommodate candidates’ concerns.

It is important to note that candidates are assessing the client based on their experience during the recruitment process. A long and extended process may be translated as an organisation that has a long and cumbersome decision-making culture. In my experience, responsiveness builds confidence and trust.  At InterSearch Ireland, we have a good understanding of the client’s organisation and their expectations. This relationship ensures a great level of responsiveness from the hiring manager which in turn translates into candidate experience.”

 

 How do you ensure that we get the Hiring Manager engaged in this process from our end? Since we have been retained, we are responsible for identifying and presenting candidates to our client. What is the role of the hiring manager at this stage?

Micheál: “As a retained search firm, we consider ourselves as partners with our clients. We are actively involved in the journey of finding the right leadership fit. We cannot do this by excluding the clients’ representatives. Communication and our interaction with the hiring manager help in creating clarity on both ends and feedback ensures that all stakeholders are in the loop at all times. Clients have been known to change certain requirements in the process of ongoing searches, identified new areas of opportunities and even expanded the scope of roles by either creating new ones or increasing teams based on feedback from ourselves. We can get factual data from candidates and this, in turn, helps clients to benchmark their activities against their competitors.

For instance, if a candidate is at the offer stage and is counter-offered by the current employer, it is my experience that the recruitment process plays a vital part in his/her decision to reject the new offer. Candidate experience is key in this instance. If a candidate has been involved in the process up to the offer stage, it is an indication that they are looking at career progression, personal/family time, new challenges and so on. If these are possible with our client and the process has been well managed by ourselves and an engaged and responsive client, it is more than likely that the candidate will move on.

The hiring manager is in most cases the candidate’s first experience with the client organisation. If there is rapport built up, transparency in the process and crucially updates provided on the process, the candidate has an opportunity to assess the people within the company that s/he is looking to move to.

The Client HR department will take responsibility once the candidate commences employment, this is an internal process that we have no control of, however through our collaboration and interaction with HR and hiring managers, we can help candidates take the first step into a new opportunity.”

 

You talked about counteroffers from current employers; how do you manage that?

Micheál: “In most cases, counteroffers are to be expected. If we value candidates enough that they are sought after by our clients, it goes without saying that current employers will endeavour to retain them.

Normally, once an offer has been made, I consider this a critical period in the recruitment process and onboarding has to be intensified at this stage, in collaboration with the client. It is important to prepare the candidate psychologically for the possibility of a counteroffer. Some candidates do not expect or consider counter-offers at this stage and when it is presented to them, it becomes a dilemma.

There are mostly two types of candidates that we deal with at this stage, the first has made a conscious and definite decision to leave a current organisation. The key here is to ensure that they are confident that they are moving into the right organisation. The second type of candidate is looking for new challenges and will leave for the right opportunity within or outside of the current employer. Here, a current employer might seek to present a counteroffer if they sense some ambivalence in the candidate.

Sometimes we use role-plays to prepare candidates on handing in their notice and how to be clear in communicating the decision to leave to current employer. The role of the consultant is critical at this stage. S/he has to support the candidate because this can be a very emotionally challenging time.

The notice period is a delicate time and must be effectively managed by the hiring manager. It is important to keep the incoming employee in the loop at all times, there MUST be an open line of communication between the new employer and the employee. Reaching out frequently with credible subjects and possibly by different people in the organisation is one way to keep the new employee engaged. Providing relevant information on the role in preparation for commencement, an invitation to company events, launches and dinner are some of the actions that can be used to ease the employee into his/her new role. Therefore, keeping the offeree engaged is vital at this stage.”

 

How will you know that a placement has been successfully on-boarded in your client company?

Micheál: “Onboarding is a fact for all organisations, but it is also unique to prevailing circumstances; culture, strategy, organisational structure, and environment. It can be assessed around the process and ease of carrying out one’s responsibilities in a new company.

It may be the case that a new employee can effectively carry out the technical requirements of the role, but does not have the personality fit for the organisation.  Behavioural competencies are key at the leadership level and this is oftentimes the area of greatest challenge for the new leader and the team. Personality and culture fit are important.

The size of the organisation will also determine the onboarding process after the commencement of employment. The bigger the company the more likely that this might be a lengthy process.

After commencement, we continue to engage with the hiring manager and the new employee to assess how the relationship is progressing. This allows us to evaluate the fit and areas of concern if any. I believe that if the onboarding is not progressing as should, either side can determine this within the guarantee/probationary period. After this period, there is a good indication that onboarding is progressing well.”

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