EngagementEnsuring buy-in from your workforce in tumultuous times

Ensuring buy-in from your workforce in tumultuous times

Putting purpose and strategy at the heart of your mission is key to uniting your people with your business goals. Ensuring buy-in from employees is never more important than in times of crisis, and never more challenging. How can HR maintain alignment during tumultuous times?

Change is crucial for organizations, but it is rarely without its challenges and compromises. One study even found that 38% of workers became frustrated and disengaged due to anxiety caused by the introduction of new processes.

What’s more, this can become costly. Research shows that disaffected workers cost American businesses roughly $450-550 billion each year in lost productivity. One way to combat this is to ensure employee buy-in by laying out a clear and attractive vision that the workforce can connect to.

However, as is the case with anything in the world of business, this process is subject to varying circumstances. Buy-in will of course be harder to achieve when employees are particularly anxious and disengaged.

With the onset of the coronavirus, this is a noteworthy concern for employers right now. The pandemic is compelling business around the world to rethink their strategies and processes, and yet it is the knock-on effects of the virus itself that is making it harder for employees to commit to these changes.

So, the question is, how can employers attain this buy-in? In order to examine this further, we spoke to Dawn Smedley, Culture and Engagement Consultant, WorkBuzz, who provided some valuable insight.

“Buy-in right now matters more than it ever has before but it’s a big ask, while so much uncertainty is directly affecting people’s lives,” she said.

“What really resonates with me right now is seeing supermarkets feeding the nation, but also making time for huge food bank donations. It’s businesses having to furlough their employees but doing it the right way. It’s companies innovating to re-purpose what they normally do to help. It’s leaders taking pay cuts. This connection to purpose and to human-first leadership is what most people will buy in to right now.”

That said, the fact remains that this kind of strategic thinking is now harder than ever before. In a time where family and health are paramount concerns for almost everybody, employers must go above and beyond to ensure their employees feel they are being looked after and are therefore committed to the organization.

“Neuroscience tells us that psychological safety is key but right now we are all feeling threatened, unsettled and feel as though we have a lack of control. We are scared about our health and that of our loved ones”, Smedley continued.

“Our jobs and livelihoods may be threatened and most of us are worried about the future in one way or another.”

But there is another dimension to this issue. Namely, it merges with what is currently a big challenge to the talent space, in that many organization fear acquisition and retention will be severely hindered by coronavirus.

Not only is the expense of hiring a daunting prospect during this financially uncertain time, but retaining is an equally difficult challenge, with employees becoming disengaged due to anxiety and hysteria. Smedley goes on to touch on this herself.

“You could lose your best people – full stop,” she said. “Many of us are re-evaluating our working lives as a result of this pause we are seeing in the world. Those with long commutes may not want to do this anymore and will demand more flexible working arrangements.”

“Those who are furloughed may take the opportunity to evaluate their career choices and you may find that they want to try something new, to change course. As human beings, it feels like our connection to a common purpose has never felt as strong. Now is the time to help your people connect to yours.”

But of course, a key question in this debate still remains. How can engagement be restored and employee buy-in attained?

Achieving this will be crucial for the resilience and success of businesses as they navigate through this transition period. One piece of research even found that over 90% of business leaders agree that engagement is critical to their business success.

“Now is the time to lead with integrity, to build trust through clear, consistent and transparent communications, to recognise people for going above and beyond, to care, to show vulnerability, to share stories and connection people in meaningful ways,” Smedley said.

“It is key that softer skills begin to emerge across all levels of the organization to remedy the disconnection and distance that people are no doubt feeling.”

“This human-first approach to leadership has been and always will be the key ingredient that differentiates one company culture from another.”

It is clear that ‘buy-in’ is a multifaceted concept. It encompasses strong leadership and communication, healthy company culture and values and ultimately it crosses over heavily with employee engagement.

In order to succeed in this, organisations must show extra care, compassion and understanding to their employees during these turbulent times. Ultimately, if they feel they are valued and respected, they are far more likely to commit to the transition.

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