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After a year of managing external risk, leaders now need to look internally

Person with white sneakers standing on a street with two arrows sign
Written by
Kathryn Tector

Kathryn Tector

Written by
Meagan Murdoch

Meagan Murdoch

For the past year, the focus of leaders has been on managing the immediate crisis, keeping people safe and adapting in order to keep operating. Companies and organizations put hiring on hold and employees rolled up their sleeves. The goal: get through the pandemic.

But we’re now more than a year into this pandemic and for many, there’s no end in sight. The third wave is now well and truly underway, and with so little within our control, it’s no surprise that employees are seeking out new sources of inspiration, reconsidering what’s important, and contemplating what they want out of life.

With an influx of restless employees searching for new optimism or change, and companies looking to restock or bolster their talent pool (check out the great opportunities here at NATIONAL!), there’s a renewed pressure on companies and organizations to up their game if they want to retain, grow, and attract the best talent.

Refresh your purpose and dust off your values

Crises force organizations to focus on the immediate issue at hand but a year into the pandemic, leaders need to step back and take a broader view. After all, even with vaccines, the impact of this pandemic will be long-lasting, if not permanent. The quick fixes put in place last year need to be replaced by meaningful, lasting improvements to the ways of working. The hyper-focus on short-term financials should be replaced by objectives that align with the new world order.

Feeling connected and grounded within an organization stems from shared values and purpose. Consider how the organization can align its focus with its purpose. How can leaders and managers reiterate the organization’s values in a meaningful and impactful way? Whether it’s through townhalls, a workshop, or weekly team meetings, every employee—especially those who joined during the pandemic—need to know the organization’s purpose and values and see them heralded by the leaders around them. Only then will employees be able to put them into action.

If the organization values collaboration, do employees have the software and training needed to help them connect without technological barriers? If communication is a value, are managers taking the time to meet regularly with their teams? In this new work-from-home environment, it’s easy for employees to feel disconnected and despite regular team meetings, they could still feel unheard. Do employees have the opportunity to share feedback? Could the organization deploy an engagement survey? If the organization values innovation, how do managers motivate employees and give them the autonomy to try new things?

Recalibrate work-life prioritization

The shift towards work-from-home has provided great liberties but it has also blurred the lines between office and home. Encouraging healthy routines and breaking the cycle of always being on will help the whole team be more focused, productive, and content. Leaders must demonstrate the behaviours they want to see in their team. Establish new communication norms. For example, only send emails during standard working hours.

Teams can also be encouraged to mix things up by taking their next meeting on foot and off video with a walk outdoors. Several companies have also committed to having no internal meetings on a particular day. And when in doubt, call in the experts. Invite in the Canadian Mental Health Association or the Air Institute to provide a workshop on resiliency.

Put your best foot forward to new hires

While our focus here has been on those employees that are working and are maybe re-evaluating their careers, there are still many out of work and looking for a job. It’s a tough world out there in normal times and these are not normal times. A little extra care and compassion for job searchers can go a long way to helping them find the right job.

So when you can, meet with these people, provide some advice, offer to review their resume, or make an introduction. While they might not be the right fit for a particular job, they could be perfect for a future one. They could also be a stakeholder, partner, advocate, or referral for the company. Ensure the hiring process is timely, and that communication is clear and compassionate. Organizations can recruit the right people who stay for the long-term by ensuring its website and social platforms accurately reflect the company, its people, and its culture.

While these elements might seem internal, they can easily become external in a world where a tweet or review can go viral in seconds. Organizations need to put their best foot forward because, while water cooler conversations are gone for now, word of mouth remains an ideal recruitment tool. If your organization isn’t taking care of its people, others will soon find out.

NATIONAL can help you put your best foot forward when trying to retain, grow and attract the best talent. We’ve been working with clients to realign and establish their purpose and values. We’re also helping them improve their communication with employees and create an optimal work experience. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your team.

——— Meagan Murdoch is a former Director at NATIONAL Public Relations

——— Kathryn Tector is a former Senior Vice-President and Chief Client Officer, Atlantic at NATIONAL Public Relations