Communication has always been a vital part of working relationships but over the course of the last 18 months, it’s played a leading role in keeping employees motivated and feeling supported. During periods of drastic change, honesty and transparency are essential in reducing workplace friction, and are key to helping employees understand and respond to the challenges ahead. Communication, in turn, helps to maintain certainty in the workplace even at a time when external factors outside of the business’ control are anything but certain.
That’s why communication continues to be touted as one to the top traits of a good leader; during times of flux, it brings the business together under a common understanding of the challenges it is facing, but also unites employees around a way forward. Critically, however, it must always be grounded and informed by data. An evidence-based approach ensures all HR and wider business communications are accurate and well-judged. At SAP, for instance, we’ve found that regularly surveying our team has been invaluable in checking the pulse of the business and ensuring that our employees are always at the heart of new business strategy or policy.
At the same time, it’s imperative that leaders do not see the collection and analysis of employee feedback and data as ‘job done’. Tackling uncertainty means demonstrating that you are listening to their concerns and demands, and are implementing real and meaningful change on an ongoing basis. Rightly so, COVID has encouraged employees to speak up and be heard by the business, and exercising effective communication requires HR leaders to pay close attention. This is how we can create a safe and reassuring work environment, and attract and retain the talent that will lead the business onwards.
Building skills for agility
In addition to effective communication, HR leaders should look towards nurturing a culture of skill development and career enrichment to reintroduce that feeling of workplace certainty. By investing in learning and skills development, not only can HR teams build a business that is more agile to change and uncertainty, but it can restore and improve teams’ confidence and morale.
For instance, a focus on skill development can help employees to feel empowered in the workplace - helping to fight off what has quickly become known as the "great resignation" following the pandemic. For instance, as the formal office environment has been replaced with a more flexible, hybrid working model, SAP has prioritised peer-to-peer learning like shadowing and regular learning forums to garner a sense of allyship and knowledge sharing. We also introduced our ‘Never Lunch Alone’ initiative to encourage spontaneous virtual lunches and coffee appointments, so our employees can expand their network. Leaders should never underestimate the importance of those ‘watercooler’ moments.
What we’ve found is that in encouraging these spontaneous connections and opportunities to knowledge-share, that the pandemic has brought opportunities to remove silos between divisions and different teams. In fact, the concept of ‘distance’ is no longer a barrier for employees, instead it has allowed people to be creative, brave, and learn something new from peers previously totally unknown.
As we all hope to move forward from a period of uncertainty, it’s this sense of community, be it through effective communication or knowledge-sharing, that is helping to reintroduce confidence in the workplace.
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