People change. Situations change. So, should your leadership practices. Leaders are not just about management theory where situations do not largely change and mostly remain the same.
Thus, you cannot just harp on the performance graphs and blame people for the change in trends. When situations are beyond your influence, you need to make sure that the sailing is smooth when it comes to the productivity and performance of the team. Here are some ways in which you can ensure employee engagement in volatile situations - market changes such as recession, personal changes in an employee's life, and changes in organisational hierarchies, practices and policies.
Gather facts: Ask questions to the senior management team about industry trends or changing company policies. Refrain from pestering your leaders to provide specific details. Discuss with them and let them know that you need the facts to avoid employee discontentment. Appreciate their limitations if they are not able to provide more information. Avoid getting information from untrustworthy sources or gossipmongers who spread bits and pieces of information.
If you need to gather information about changes in the life of an employee such as marriage or death – the best option is to speak to the employee directly. Whenever there is a major change in an employee engagement level or performance level, talk to the employee and identify if there are any personal reasons behind this change. Avoid gathering information from other team members unless the team member is on leave and not available to you. However, it is always better to make a phone call to the employee and speak in such situations. Thus, you can ensure that you have all the right facts.
Reassure: Let your communication be transparent. Share the information that you received without tweaking it. However, if you consider that some details might cause unrest in the morale of the team members, you can refrain from sharing such data. Remember that you must avoid hiding data for a long time. Let employees know the truth and provide re-assurance that things will get better. Stay away from making false claims.
Understand the fact that employees also have their own information channels and will receive information even if you try to conceal some facts. Hence, plan your communication to play it safe and ensure that employee engagement level is not hindered in any way.
In situations such as industry recessional fears, it is always better to speak the truth if the employees demand the information. However, when they are fears of layoff, talk to your human resource department and plan your communication accordingly. Your senior management might also have some guidelines that help you in such situations.
Empathise: Whether it is an overall team fear of layoffs or an individual with a family problem, you need to empathise with each employee. You need to take a step further from sympathising and help your employees in their decision making process, too, if necessary. Step into their shoes and try to evaluate the situation with all the information at your expense and communicate with the employee. Thus, your employee will trust your judgment and make sure that there is no dip in the engagement level. Your leadership skills will also come to the fore during such situations as you handle a good number of people with varying perceptions and situations.
When the situations change, you should also allow your employees to make steps to adapt to that change. You cannot expect your employee to overcome the fears or get away from the depression cycles within a very short span of time. Make room for some changes and communicate this with the employee. Communicate the fact that things need to change faster. Make things at work comfortable for the employee when there is a personal emergency. Thus, an individual will be able to respond well to the emergency and return sooner with confidence that things are fine at the workplace.
Try different strokes for different folks to make sure that their engagement levels help the performance graph move up and not otherwise.