By: Susan Walsh, SHRM-SCP
One of my favorite movies is “Silver Linings Playbook” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. It’s a worthy combination of comedy and drama that takes a hard look at family dysfunction, love, and the pursuit of happiness. The title comes from the expression, “every cloud has a silver lining” essentially meaning that nothing is all bad or look for the positive in a difficult situation. This got me thinking about the idea of the silver lining in challenging life and work situations.
Eighteen months ago businesses were shutting their doors, employees were losing their jobs in unprecedented numbers and those that remained employed were in a state of heightened awareness and fear that they could be next, overwhelmed by family/life responsibilities, and dealing with all the unknowns of Covid. Trying to find the bright side of things during the pandemic became more commonplace as unplanned change blew through our lives like a tornado in the midwest. One outcome is the biggest intentional exodus of employees from the workforce in recent history– The Great Resignation. While this might be a silver lining for some, it creates a challenging situation for organizations.
A recent study by SHRM indicates that 52% of employees are anxious at work and 48% are mentally exhausted at the end of the day. Half the workforce is seriously stressed out at work! Another study by Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers found that more than half the employees currently working from home worry that their manager doubts their productivity. In order to make up for this, more than 2 in 5 employees start their workdays earlier or work later, and more than a third skip lunch break in an effort to show productivity to managers. Employees in heightened states of stress find it difficult to get and stay focused, are more easily prone to distractions, and are more likely to make mistakes. This results in employees that are less productive, more dissatisfied with their work, and more likely to move on. Use the following suggestions to create an HR silver linings playbook for current employees:
● Make changes to your benefits package that focus on total wellness, including physical and mental health. Conduct a gap analysis to identify where there are holes in benefits offerings (coverage gaps, affordability, waiting time).
● Review policies for more flexibility. Include remote work options, flex time shared work, and PTO policies that are actually usable.
● Continually assess market salaries and update salary data with more frequency. Cost-of-Living increases simply won’t stand up against market increases for same/similar roles.
● Train managers and staff to recognize burnout and how to address it proactively.
● Expand employee referral programs and grow brand ambassadors internally. Ideas include shortening the time for referral payouts and creating points/reward programs for the number of referrals.
● Conduct job evaluations to ensure skills are reflective of the current work environment. This might include a closer look at change management skills, the ability to learn, adapt, and be resilient, along with proven examples of agility. Train and develop the current workforce in these skills and identify on-the-job opportunities to apply these skills.
● Conduct employee micro surveys and stay interviews to get ahead of the turnover. Use this information to quickly make changes to policy, procedures, and processes to clear the path for better engagement.
● Conduct culture surveys to identify where there are gaps in what the organization states and how the organization/management behaves. More than ever, employees are paying close attention to consistency between what management says and what they do.
● Ramp up communication efforts and create more agility in your organization. Scrum meetings are not just for development teams. They can be used in any department to continually move work forward and respond to immediate change. Scrum provides a framework for continual, progressive communication.
Consider how a silver lining perspective can help move your HR efforts forward– seeing how a challenging situation actually provides opportunities for growth and positive change, as well as increasing employee trust, engagement, and satisfaction.