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Self Care Week 2020: Top tips for keeping your workforce positive amid change;

  1. Be transparent
  2. Start a conversation
  3. Check in with your team
  4. Recognise and reward
  5. Foster a culture of continual learning

As Self Care Week 2020 draws to a close, it’s an opportune moment for employers to consider the role they can play in fostering employee wellbeing - creating a happy and stable working culture, at a time when uncertainty can feel like the only certainty for their workforce.

From headlines predicting social upheaval to family and friends experiencing unemployment, employees across the UK are passing through a unique period of upheaval in their personal and professional lives alike. According to Deloitte’s recent ‘May the Workforce be with you’ study, 78% of workers questioned have experienced at least one change at a moderate/large extent to their working lives in 2020.

And as a result, people managers currently face a unique challenge: offering stability while the reverberations of change are being felt among their teams and further afield.

As well as being the right thing to do on a human level, the benefits of a positive workforce have been well-documented. This 2019 study from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School has conclusively demonstrated the link between happiness and high performance, finding that workers who feel upbeat are 13% more efficient. 

Put simply, a positive team is a productive team.

Here are our top tips for boosting positivity among your teams against a backdrop of change:

1. Be transparent

To ensure your teams feel that they’re in the loop rather than second-guessing the state of play within the business, share your news and updates as soon as you’re able, and to the level of detail that’s appropriate. 

We know that this isn’t always possible – some information may be confidential and, while plans are being put in place, you’ll want to hold off sharing anything as a certainty or overloading your teams with ever-evolving updates – but there are ways of being transparent through change. Your team leaders and people managers, as those who work in close daily contact with their teams, are best-placed to communicate in-team changes, and your business heads should share the bigger, overarching business news. 

Ensuring that key news is communicated directly from the CEO and any further additions cascaded through managers will mean that the right level of information is given at the right time, without overwhelming colleagues with surplus detail or insight. 

When sharing communications, a good rule of thumb is to make sure what you’re sharing is:

  • Timely: Why are you communicating this now? Sharing as soon as you are able means that you are giving the message that your people are your priority and that they are trusted to know the critical business news as it happens.
  • Tailored: Explain what the updates mean for the audience you are speaking to. If you are communicating to the general workforce, how will the news you’re imparting impact their day-to-day roles? If speaking to managers, is this going to affect how they manage their team? Keep it relevant to the recipient.
  • Two-way: Maintaining an open and positive work environment isn’t about delivering edicts from on high. Sharing updates is critical– but as well as speaking, you need to listen. Which leads us on to our next tip…

2. Start a conversation

Dialogue is important at this moment in time. Your colleagues shouldn’t feel that they’re receiving information, but that they’re engaged in a two-way dialogue in which they’re able to share their own thoughts, fears and queries.

Provide opportunities for your teams to ask questions and share their experiences, whether on a one-on-one or in a wider town hall setting. This will give you the opportunity to hear from your people directly, allowing you to quash any rumours that may be circulating and to actively demonstrate that your team’s voices are valued. 

And remember that not all colleagues are comfortable raising their views in the same way. Allow for those who wish to take some time to digest news, as well as individuals who respond in the moment. Give the option for your team members to follow up with queries on internal platforms (e.g. email, Workspace) as and when they occur to them. 

It’s also important to make it clear that colleagues can voice their concerns and views freely, without fear of negative ramifications on their career or standing within the business. Constructive feedback is core to improving intra-organisational ways of working – be prepared to accept suggestions, whichever direction they come from.

Keeping the conversation channels open and accessible to all signals an important element of internal communications: that this is an ongoing dialogue, not a one-off discussion.

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3. Check in 

As many businesses are currently operating remotely, it’s easy to lose the day-to-day contact which will give you natural and ongoing cues as to how your team is faring. 

A recent Belonging Barometer study from Ernst & Young found that “regular check-ins prevent workers from checking out,” with 39% of colleagues confirming that they feel the greatest sense of belonging at work when their teams take the time to find out how they are doing, both personally and professionally.

Make sure you’re addressing this by scheduling in virtual – or face-to-face, if your business is operating in-person – coffees with individual members of the team, as well as group meetings to allow you all to come together. These meetings needn’t be all business – in fact, it’s better if you can organise some ‘wind-down’ activities to inject additional fun into the week. Many successful businesses have seen positive reactions to everything from ‘workplace bingo’ to business awards ceremonies as a way of staying close to teams.

4. Recognise and reward

This can be as straightforward as calling your team member to share a simple ‘thank you’. When good work is highlighted to you, make time in your week to pass it on, whether the feedback comes from clients, stakeholders or other members of their team. 

Let your people know that their great work is being noticed; and is being appreciated. At a tumultuous time, it will give teams the confidence that they are taking charge of what they are able – their day-to-day work – performing highly and being viewed as vital members of the organisation. 

Receiving positive affirmation from managers is a virtuous circle. When being given praise, your colleagues will receive a dopamine boost, understand that they are seen as a valued part of the business; then, moving forward, the same colleague will be more inclined to continue to deliver high quality work in the future. It’s a win-win situation!

5. Foster a culture of continual learning

In the spirit of improvement, development and forward motion, make sure you carve out time for your team to pursue training of their choice.

Giving your people the chance to have autonomy over their own learning will empower them to take responsibility for their progression. This is more important now than ever, facing times where external factors can make workers feel powerless over their futures, as it allows them to focus on what they can control.

In allowing time (and budget, if available), you demonstrate your commitment to, and investment in, your teams and their futures in the business. This will serve as a source of reassurance and assist you in equipping your teams with the tools they need to thrive in their roles.

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