With business owners asking themselves how to traverse this new, constantly shifting environment, employer assistance program AccessEAP believes the answer lies in nailing the basics.
“Businesses should focus, not on what’s changing, but rather what remains — the importance of people and trust,” said Sally Kirkright, CEO of AccessEAP.
“In fact, according to the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) global research, 96 per cent of CEOs say building and maintaining trust with stakeholders is a top priority,” she added.
Ms Kirkright explained that the best place to start is by looking at how the business can understand and support employees to take accountability for and build their own resistance.
“Change is challenging, especially when it brings prolonged isolation, financial stress and, for those frontline workers, fear of contracting COVID-19,” she said.
“With one in five Australians already vulnerable to mental health issues, a leader’s first priority should be to strengthen their own and their teams’ ability to cope with our current reality.”
This behaviour, she said, starts at the top, meaning that leaders in a pandemic have to do the forward thinking, which can mean making unpopular decisions.
“It’s important for leaders to look after their own psychological health and acknowledge that they won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time. However, focusing on physical and mental wellbeing, while earning trust and communicating clearly, will help managers empower their team and ultimately the business to effectively manage the abnormal,” Ms Kirkright advised.
For most, survival planning in a pandemic was never part of workplace strategy — it was forced upon business. Due to this, Ms Kirkright said, it’s important for leaders to communicate the “why” at each step.
“While leading through uncertainty, it’s necessary to adapt with expert advice (WHO, federal and state governments etc.) and transparently talk to the facts to gain employees’ trust and let them know that the business is looking out for them,” Ms Kirkright said.
“In return, they’ll be motivated to ensure the survival of the business.”
Lastly, she urged business owners to connect with other leaders, stressing the importance of learning from each other.
“Many employers are adapting to similar challenges, so getting insights from the people with similar goals will inform different approaches for leaders and advice to give to employers,” Ms Kirkright said.
She noted that by building trust and focusing on people and culture, leaders will put themselves and their businesses in the best position to cope with the constant changes of the “new abnormal” that will unfold in the coming months and years.