COVID-19 is truly ‘novel’. It’s a pandemic that’s causing a crisis at more than one level - health, economy, and humanity. With a worldwide lockdown, we are experiencing an unknown reality. Amidst this uncertainty, while businesses continue to evaluate its impact, there is a need to respond appropriately too.
As the famous saying goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Businesses have a primary responsibility towards its employees. While, most businesses have proactively undertaken measures that safeguard the physical health of employees, it’s equally important to respond with measures that stimulate employees’ mental well-being. Reports of increasing anxiety and depression among individuals, even in India, are prominent.
Business leaders should actively respond with measures to reduce anxiety among its employees. While businesses may slowdown, shifting employee focus to upskilling could have a positive impact at two key levels. For employees, it would instill confidence and channelize their downtime in the right direction. It would also help organizations fix skill gaps and improve productivity when business recovers.
Here are some ways leaders can guide talent development during these times:
Empowering teams with relevant information
As businesses step out of the ‘panic mode,’ there will be new client needs as well as the need for existing needs to be fulfilled differently. It’s up to a leader, therefore, to guide teams and prepare them to be future-ready. Suggesting reference resources, sharing knowledge papers and industry trends is a good beginning. Also, publishing and sharing opinions from thought leaders within the organization could improve relevance.
Helping employees gain access through various collaborative channels
The lack of in-person interactions with peers and managers could make employees feel disconnected and to an extent, demotivated. Leaders could facilitate interaction and dialogue through collaborative tools like webinars and virtual chats. Adding a dash of fun certainly makes learning more effective. We’ve seen great results when we gamify the learning experience with virtual quizzes through platforms like Kahoot, polls, etc.
And, talent development works both ways. The new-age employee is eager to self-learn just as much as companies like ours, are invested in grooming them. There are plenty of learning resources available. Online courses from universities and massive open online courses can help leaders achieve learning goals for their teams. The key here is to assist employees to narrow down on courses, which is where line managers and training teams can help.
Building a mentor-connect initiative
Leaders or subject matter experts can step forward as mentors in the organization. Mentors could invest this time to understand skill gaps and likewise groom employees. This will add to an employee’s personal and professional growth and go a long way in retaining a skilled workforce.
Making sure the experience of learning is monitored and effective
As companies now move to virtual training or virtual induction for new employees, careful planning to meet the end goals is important. This should be supplemented with regular check-ins and connects with employees. But it doesn’t end here. What works for one team may work differently for another or not at all! Going forward, employee progress should be tracked, and the feedback and learnings received should be leveraged to tweak the process to make the learning experience smarter and more effective.
Using the nudge theory
We’ve seen success when leaders move from ‘directive’ to ‘facilitative’ learning for employees with the nudge theory. The nudge theory is a concept in behavioral economics that argues that a near-constant stream of subtle suggestions will encourage people to make better decisions. For instance, when a training course is assigned to an employee, regular nudges like calling out specific names who have been consistent in sharing the updates, sharing positive feedback on the courses from co-learners, congratulating the learners who completed at least one course, and so on could be effective in achieving results.
Robin Sharma eloquently says, “Anyone can lead when the plan in working. The best lead when the plan falls apart.” The ability to create opportunity amidst this crisis will set leaders apart. Show empathy and be sensitive towards the challenges faced by employees. Skilfully prepare them for a world post novel Coronavirus.