How can employers manage the impact of change on their employees?

Need to know: 

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has created huge amounts of change in the way employees work and organisations operate.
  • Employers can introduce initiatives to help build and support resilience among employees.
  • Pulse surveys and benefits, such as recognition programmes, can support this aim.

The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has brought sharp shifts of change to the working world and has had a significant impact on how employees work and what their expectations of work are.  

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Impact of Covid-19 on working lives, published in September 2020, found that 23% of employees in June said it was likely they would lose their job in the next 12 months, compared to just 13% in January 2020. A further 30% said their ability to work has been impacted by a change in caring responsibilities since the outbreak. Additionally, 44% are anxious about returning to work, rising to 62% among those with an underlying health condition. Employers, therefore, have a role to play in managing the impact of change. 

How can change affect the resilience of employees?

The pandemic has led to significant change for millions of people in the form of furlough, pay cuts, redundancies or reduced working hours, all of which could have impacted their ability to withstand pressure.

Eileen Donnelly, workplace wellbeing manager at What Works Wellbeing, says: “The constant uncertainty around the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact on the economy means that wellbeing will continue to be affected by worries about [employees’] future at work, how secure it is, how manageable their bills are and their prospects for saving and investing for the future, particularly for the millions of people that have been covered by the furlough scheme.”

For example, the Office for National Statistics’ study Personal and economic wellbeing in Great Britain, published in May 2020, found that those impacted financially have reported lower levels of wellbeing and 16% higher anxiety on average. 

Constant change can have a significant impact on employees’ wellbeing, motivation, and productivity. Kate Bolan, head of engagement at AHC, says: “Change and uncertainty is something that staff may experience from time to time, but too much of it can impact how they are at work. The changes that businesses have recently encountered, such as working from home for the foreseeable future, can make employees incredibly worried about the uncertainty around the whole situation.” 

Wellbeing and productivity are often affected by change, and with many employees experiencing financial difficulties and health concerns, there is no doubt that the current situation is impacting their resilience, says Donnelly. 

“Wellbeing concerns during change go much further than just how we are feeling,” she explains. “Debt, the ability to save, unforeseen expenditures, and control of financial circumstances more generally all have an impact on an employee’s wellbeing. It is important to consider how secure we feel our jobs are, and how this might affect our future expectations for work and retirement.

What can employers do to support this? 

Employers can play a significant role in supporting employees resilience, and can use their reward strategy to address their motivation, engagement and wellbeing. 

Reward programmes can be adapted to help employees increase their resilience at work, says Martha Cook, people advisory officer at EY. “Benefit strategies during times of uncertainty require a change,” she explains. “The ripple effects of Coronavirus continue to evolve and organisations are starting to adapt to total reward programmes during Coronvairus, supported through digital tools.”

Launching recognition programmes, rewarding employees for successfully going through times of change, and offering landmark benefits such as employment milestones and quarterly bonuses, can go a long way in motivating and recognising employees. 

Sammy Rubin, chief executive at Yulife, says: “New innovations through workplace technology has enabled businesses to motivate and engage employees through apps and a gamified experience. Employers can utilise these advancements by offering employees an employee experience that helps them deal with the stress of change.”

Fitness tracking and mindfulness apps are effective initiatives that employers can introduce to help employees deal with high levels of stress when going through change. 

“Advancements in benefits technology have a significant role to play in helping employees manage change,” adds Cook. “Businesses need to optimise remote work while maintaining engagement through digital collaboration. Technology and digital communication tools play significant roles in helping employees interact, stay connected and provide real-time pulse feedback to their employers.”

Regular communication

Providing employees with regular updates through internal communication channels is imperative if they are facing periods of change. Introducing pulse surveys and virtual team meetings to get a grasp of how they are feeling is important to understand the best way in which to help them, which can significantly improve employee resilience. 

It is important to offer wellbeing options, both for mental health and financial wellbeing to continually support employees through change if they are worried about their health and finances, says Bolan. “Exploring wellbeing options can avoid the long-term effects on employee wellbeing and resilience,” she explains. “Although this looks different in different organisations, it might include, for example, employers offering short-term loans or savings schemes that complement a range of government provisions to freeze debt repayments.

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“Creating an open environment to discuss money concerns without stigma can be done by simply asking employees how they are feeling; even where there have been no changes to an employee’s income, other changes to household income and expenditure or their pension value may be creating worries for an employee. Offering wellbeing apps and meditation sessions can massively help employees deal with change, rewarding them for their work through change.” 

The significant changes to work and home lives in 2020 were always likely to have an effect on staff productivity and engagement. Employers can, therefore, offer benefits and support to ensure staff stay motivated and boost resilience during an ongoing period of change.