The corona crisis is causing drastic changes in many people’s lives. For many employers, too, these are uncertain times. Nevertheless, companies can distinguish themselves as good employers with extra attention for the wellbeing of their employees. This is not just about money or job security. Employers can help their employees with care, attention and communication according to the principles of crisis communication, taking into account the change curve they are currently going through.
From one day to the next, a carefree existence in a world of economic boom has turned into a nightmare with fear of illness and the prospect of economic decline and high unemployment. There are smaller crises and changes in a human life that are already giving rise to major concerns and tensions. It is probable that many employees see no future perspective amid a crisis of this magnitude. How could they?
The theory of the change curve says that people go through a number of phases before they are able to come to terms with any major change that turns their world upside down. The first reaction to the corona crisis was one of denial. The new reality just hadn’t yet sunk in. It was something to China, Italy, Brabant, and vulnerable elderly people. In short, affecting others. This lasted until the number of infections doubled on daily basis, Trump closed the borders to Europe, the stock market collapsed and the world came to a standstill for everyone. At that moment feelings of fear, insecurity and anger struck. That was sadness about the loss of well-being and security, things taken for granted until just two weeks earlier. There was resistance against the new reality.
In this initial phase there is an enormous need for information! What is the actual impact of the events, the meaning of the change? Understanding the new situation and accepting its irreversibility helps you to process the emotions and form a clear view of the future. Immediately along with this is the need for recognition of one’s feelings and care for your situation. Only when you feel heard and accept the new situation can you be open to finding and embracing new possibilities for the future.
Employers can help their employees to accept and find their way up the ladder. They can do this by showing empathy and acknowledging concerns, by explaining what actions being taken and what results are intended (and achieved). In the initial phase, where much is still unclear, the need for information and the ability to share it with colleagues is enormous. By constantly taking employees along in the developments, you offer them perspective and tools they can apply themselves. Offering a listening ear and – where necessary – paying attention to individual requests for help, helps you guide your people through the difficult first phase from grief to acceptance of the new reality. Only then can there be room for those new initiatives that can produce something beautiful for the individual or organization.
We have already seen many examples of this. Virtual working has been given a new boost with multifunctional tools for video presentations and meetings that approach or even exceed the effectiveness of the physical. Social media offer a new platform for collegial contact, alternative ways to share, watch and collaborate. From these new opportunities initiatives by employees to offer help are appearing, for example in care or food supply, or to continue offering services in a different way. Employers are stimulating and embracing these initiatives and in doing so are laying the foundation for lasting change within their own organization and offering employees prospects for the future, within or outside the organization.
In these times, society is looking very closely at companies and, more than ever, making an appeal to the human side of leadership.