I am sure most if not all organizations; big or small, global or local have experienced this year’s business headwinds. While this phenomenon is not particularly unusual, what’s unusual are the multiple and coinciding social, geo political and economic factors impacting business growth charts. As a result of which, we are witnessing organizations restructuring and reorganizing in preparation for the future.
Characteristics of such huge and organization-wide shifts are paused initiatives, shelved investments, change in roles, zero to very low increments amongst others — all of which have contributed to a sustained feeling of anxiety. Not to mention, watching many of our peers, colleagues, friends and family lose their jobs overnight.
These heightened emotions of ‘not really belonging’ over the uncertainty could cause employees to display low levels of engagement and possibly higher levels of attrition when there is a rebound. To avoid such a turn of events, it becomes the organizational leadership’s responsibility to ensure feelings of safety and belongingness. Where should the leaders begin? How can they ensure a continued sense of trust and hope in the fact that the organization has and will continue to uphold its values.
As someone who has spent close to a decade at Thoughtworks, an organization that always prioritized its people-first over policies, and as someone who has closely observed the reorganization that we are going through as a company — here are a few pointers on how to lead during this period of transition:
Root for the people and create a safe space – Allow people to be vulnerable, where they are free of fear and judgment. becomes highly crucial when we are living in a state of uncertainty. Sometimes, just listening could be a solution offered and applied.
Double down on your DEI efforts – This might sound contradictory and even difficult but we need to be very mindful of not pausing DEI efforts that organizations might be working towards. In a time of transition where budgets are tight, DEI becomes that much important because it’s an opportunity to go beyond specific initiatives or campaigns. An instance could be how we navigate unconscious biases during this period..
Prioritize employees’ emotional and mental wellbeing – Offering teams flexibility when on stretch assignments or opening more forums for people to share and speaking with transparency can help maintain a positive work environment. When navigating harder economic situations, rigidly focusing on mandatory return to office or measuring performance by the number of hours spent on the job can only aggravate employee anxiety. It is crucial to regularly
communicate with empathy and ensure people have avenues to connect when they need support.
Focus on DEI metrics – Decisions and actions are much more powerful when powered by data. Capturing metrics and providing access/visibility to them might help organizations’ workforces efficiently and collaboratively work towards DEI goals . Actively achieving or closing in on DEI goals can be a bigger motivator for the organization during tough times. .
I would wrap these points up with the guidance that being intentional and not putting DEI on hold until brighter days can help more than one realizes. DEI was and is never a negotiable path anymore. DEI is not a choice either. It is a business need. One piece of advice for DEI leaders to remember when thinking about how to do DEI in this bad economic condition when morale is low is to focus as much as possible on practices of inclusion, at every level of the organization
Head of Diversity Equity and Inclusion