Employee uncertainty is bad for business. When people don’t feel their work situations are stable, they get anxiety, depression, and have a tendency to catastrophize. They also become disengaged with their work. Because of this, productivity wanes, and so does financial success. Gallup estimates that 22 million employees are disengaged, resulting in $350 billion lost each year due to absences, illness, and other unhappiness-related issues.
It’s up to leadership and HR professionals to manage employee uncertainty before things get out of control, especially in these unprecedented times spurred by the pandemic. It is up to managers to get ahead of uncertainty and find ways to communicate with employees, reassure them, and have structures in place to manage uncertainty should it arise.
Our Guest: Sandy Scholes, Chief People Officer at Flipp Corporation
On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Sandy Scholes, chief people officer at Flipp Corporation. She has over two decades of diverse HR experience, having held several executive HR leadership roles at organizations like Entertainment One, Becton, Dickinson, GlaxoSmithKline, and CARA. Sandy has long sustained a passion for working with people and focuses on growth empowerment. She aims to help create work cultures of learning at organizations and provides strategies to manage employee uncertainty during times of organizational change.
Because employee uncertainty is especially prevalent thanks to the pandemic, I was eager to get her insight into how to work with such uncertainties. I wanted to know: What can organizations do to combat this? The first thing is to equip leaders and managers with the ability to spot uncertainty in the first place.
“It starts with all of your leaders and coaches. You need to pull people in a room and equip leaders and managers with the right kind of skills to try to notice that. You have to double your communication,” Sandy says. “At Flipp, we’ve asked all of our leaders to be deliberate and spend one-on-one time checking in on employees to see how they’re doing.”
The second thing to realize is that everyone reacts differently to uncertainty, and will need different accommodations. What one employee needs to feel more secure may be wildly different than another.
“You can’t treat everyone the same. For example, at Flipp, for parents, we’re trying to manage uncertainty by providing more flexibility. How do we create a schedule where they don’t feel overwhelmed?” Sandy says. “Managers and coaches need to understand that they have to provide this level of flexibility so that people can work differently now.”
Don’t just survive. Thrive.
Of course, managing uncertainty isn’t enough. Once you help people get to a baseline of comfort, you want to make sure they’re able to get to the next level. Employees don’t just want to survive; they want to thrive.
“Make sure employees have a growth and development plan. You have to sit down with them monthly, even if they’re remote. Talk about career aspirations. Because if they don’t feel like they’re going to develop, then they’re going to feel stagnant,” Sandy says.
And engagement will suffer. With the surge of the “Great Resignation,” this isn’t a risk you can take. Offer employees options to grow. Give them stipends to allow for creativity and learning–even if it doesn’t directly correlate to work.
“If employees want to take music lessons or guitar or they want to sign up for a wine course, they can take some of that money and spend it on a personal thing. It’s all about feeding your soul,” Sandy says. “Stay invested, grow people, help challenge them, and make sure they’re learning and they feel like they’re making a difference.”