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We can all agree that 2020 was a year for the history books. So much happened that, at the beginning of the year, no one could have predicted or imagined. In fact, had someone made a movie about the events of 2020 before they happened, it might have been raved as a critically acclaimed fictional horror and the author praised for their “other worldly” imagination. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but I think it captures the general feeling. Having been somewhat scarred by the experience of 2020, people have approached 2021, not with the usual new year exuberance, but rather with a more skeptical and cautious approach. While one can hardly be blamed for that, here is a thought: instead of starting the new year thinking that 2020 won, why not see 2021 as an opportunity to learn from the past year and proactively prepare for what is ahead? Raymond McCauley said it best when he said, “Change what you can, manage what you can’t.” What can you change?
The workplace is one of the environments that was hit hardest by the events of 2020. I saw this in many respects – ranging from lay-offs to workplaces being moved entirely to a virtual reality. Employees are now operating in a completely different environment. Without question, they have been impacted in one way or another, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially. Just because everyone is “surviving” and getting the work done, do not assume that everything is okay. It may be that you are one of the lucky employers and you believe that everyone has remained unaffected – but do you actually know? In our experience, there are often silent frustrations, and this is exacerbated in situations where people are largely isolated. You may even already be noticing signs of a potential problem, for example, reduced performance, a lack of engagement, or even passive aggression between employees and/or management. Do not disregard such signs as trivial. An ever-present concern right now is safety at work in this pandemic. Do staff feel safe? Do they feel that they have the right resources to function optimally? Are their efforts being respected and appreciated? Staff morale is perhaps more important now than it has ever been.
A small piece of advice that I can give is to be proactive, not reactive. Do not wait for things to implode before you take steps to improve your workplace or at least assess if there is need for improvement. This is an opportunity to determine if your operations are effective and/or whether issues unknown to you have arisen.
A workplace assessment is a useful tool to check the temperature of your organization. It is not triggered by a complaint or incident per se. Rather, it is a proactive method used to gather information regarding the efficacy of organizational operations or to understand the culture, practices, or behaviours in the workplace. The benefit of a workplace assessment is that it will allow you to gauge the impact of the recent significant changes on employees. Let them tell you if the changes are working or not. At the same time, it will improve staff engagement and build morale.
Yes, you may have held staff meetings in which you have asked employees to share any concerns. You may have had some brave souls speak out, but it is equally possible that the appeal was met with a roar of silence. Frankly, that kind of open appeal is seldom sufficient, even more so in a time when job security is every employee’s primary concern. No one wants to rock the boat. If you genuinely want to improve your operations and improve the work environment, employees need a safe environment in which to express themselves freely, and if necessary, anonymously. This can be achieved through varying tools such as surveys, interviews, or even focus groups.
Workplace assessments can be done internally or externally. You have to determine which option best suits your particular circumstances. In our experience, there is a measure of safety or comfort that employees have when speaking to a completely independent assessor, with no connection to the organization. There is greater trust in the assurance of confidentiality and less fear of repercussions for their candour.
Whatever you choose to do, however you wish to go about it, do not do nothing – be proactive, not reactive.
New 2021 Virtual Workshop Schedule – Now Available!
Our 2021 workplace investigation workshop schedule is now available on our website. Click here to view our courses and register today!