An unexpected, hard punch to the gut, a punch followed by another and another until you are doubled over gasping for breath, trying to right yourself and fight back—that is what 2020 was like for many of us. The year rendered emotional, and possibly physical, trauma that would not let up. The RV industry absorbed those blows and continues to get stronger, despite the adversity that crippled so many other industries.
But for your employees who kept everything going, the lifeblood of your business, carefully consider the past year may not have been as easy.
If 2020 was like RV maintenance, we could have done different diagnostic tests to make sure the vehicle was drivable. Depending on the trauma, procedures exist to make needed repairs. If only business and managing people were so easy.
When it comes to medical care, often there are similarities. If someone is physically hurt, there procedures for care in place and tests to check for damage.
Emotional strain and stress are another matter. How likely is one of your staff facing fatigue from uncertainty or loss? Anxiety can last far longer than a year. What about the turmoil that occurs when things shift too quickly to properly adapt? If you have found this difficult, your staff likely has as well.
Some employees may have lost someone. Some could be struggling because they have not seen the family in a while. Others may have been dealing with in-class versus virtual learning for their kids, as each new semester passes.
Just going to the grocery store during the pandemic involves measuring risk with each trip. So many things, from the seemingly insignificant to life-altering, are potential stress points. There are differing views on the validity of the information being shared. Some in your workforce are managing these situations better than others, but all are likely handling the trauma in their own way.
Here are ways your organization can make sure you are taking care of your employees in these strange and often difficult times:
- Use your EAP. Many companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help resolve issues employees might face, from financial and legal to mental health. These are incredible assets that have been made even more important in helping individuals deal with the stressors of 2020. Encourage your staff to use these benefits. Proactive companies that ensure access to these programs are often rewarded with more long-term, productive employees.
- Check on your people regularly. Doing so is easier in certain times and situations than in others. Some people are working on-site, while others may be working remotely. Regardless, you are all one team with a shared sense of purpose. Keep everyone in the loop with developments as things continue to transition. This is as important now, as vaccinations begin, as it was when the pandemic first hit. Some positions are essential to be on-site. Continue to show your support and provide whatever your personnel need to feel protected and valued as they go about their everyday work.
- Be flexible. Some people working remotely are just as productive and useful off-site as they are when in the office. Even if you plan to move everyone back on-site eventually, people will have varying degrees of comfort. Showing you understand their concerns and are willing to develop a plan that makes sense will help. For employees doing their jobs well remotely, you might explore reducing overhead expenses and allowing them to continue. Conditions change, and as we move through the pandemic, keep in mind that your plans might also shift. Instead of thinking “this is how we do things,” you have a great opportunity to figure out how to do those tasks better.
- Help employees recharge. Unlike mechanical parts, people do not have a gauge to show you they are running on empty. People recharge in different ways. Understanding the difference between someone who needs interaction and someone who needs some “me time” is extremely helpful.
- Continue to stress the importance of work/life balance. Although critical in regular circumstances, encouraging work/life balance is even more important during a pandemic and shows employees their company cares.
Most people think of a behavioral assessment tool as a means to help them sort through job applicants. And it does, but the tool is much more. Assessments can guide you through challenging times. Knowing where the stressors’ potential and interpersonal conflicts are provides opportunities to be proactive and get ahead.
Understanding how people react under the best circumstances can also guide you in how to manage them in difficult situations. Stress can take the traits that help us every day and push those traits to extremes. This condition is like putting too much pressure for extended periods on an aluminum frame. Eventually, something will break. You can use a behavioral assessment to alleviate some stress in your staffing framework.
For example, competitive people are more likely to push back on unexpected changes. Those competitive traits that are an asset for self-motivation and drive might cause problems when types are faced with recurring situations outside their control. Competitive people benefit by knowing how changes will help them in the long run. They also need to feel they are opting-in to changes. Knowing this can be a helpful tool when communicating with them and addressing issues.
Employees more likely to seek security and stability when dealing with stress and change might feel their foundation is shifting under them. They may express concern about their future.
Both types of people experience the same anxiety, fueled by uncertainty, but how they manifest that stress can be completely different. Projecting confidence and reassurance is important for both groups.
Social people who are cut off from frequent interaction will be craving to connect. If working remotely, they may increase communication and reach out more often. These personality types are likely the ambassadors of your company. To help them overcome stress, prioritize regular check-ins with them, and not just to update work duties.
Many companies stage Zoom social hours to reinforce a sense of team. Even those employees who prefer more purposeful conversation, who might normally avoid the spotlight, might find themselves more willing to speak up virtually. Finding ways to interact one-on-one with them is important, soliciting knowledge and input, without putting them on the spot.
When stressed, people who masterfully multitask might stretch themselves too thin, especially when working remotely. Those who need to focus completely on one task might feel overwhelmed with outside work pressures. Both these personality types would benefit from regulating work/life balance. Let them know that stepping away for a few moments to gather themselves is okay. Encourage them to delineate when work ends and home life begins.
Big-picture people are great at thinking outside the box. Last year was definitely about figuring out things as you went along, which is big-picture people’s strength. Sometimes though, a person’s dislike of structure can cause as many problems as it solves. Help keep these personality types focused on the important tasks with loose guidelines. Help them find ways they can be creative, perhaps on a special project that caters to their particular skill set.
Those better at focusing on the minute details might find their greatest asset is their worst enemy in stressful or uncertain times. These personality types can have their confidence shaken if they feel they lack the information structure to excel. The best way to help them is to ensure they know what is, and is not, expected of them. Be clear that during those rare times when things seem out of their control, you have their back.
You never know where the next punch will come from. Being aware of the resources at your disposal will enable you to bob and weave and stay on your feet more easily. When you stay in fighting shape as a team, you will be able to make this new year a knockout.
Wendy Sheaffer is the chief product officer at The Omnia Group, an employee assessment firm providing behavioral insight to help organizations make successful hires and develop exceptional employees. Sheaffer is an expert on using Omnia’s eight columns as a tool to make informed hiring/employee development decisions and effectively engage staff. She works directly with clients and Omnia staff to provide a deeper understanding of how to use personality data to meet business goals. For more information, visit www.OmniaGroup.com, or call 800-525-7117.