5 ways to help workers deal with uncertainty

  • career advice
  • June 09, 2017

Nothing stays the same in the work world, and it’s normal for employees to have a hard time adjusting to change. The good news is that HR professionals can help employees roll with things better.
 
Whether it's a merger or acquisition, downsizing or other business restructuring, companies can transform quickly. While these moves often help businesses remain competitive, they also result in profound organizational changes or other disruptions to the status quo. Helping your employees overcome the anxiety that comes along with changes can be challenging. Check out five ways HR pros can help employees cope better.
 

Listen and observe.

If you know changes are coming, take time to watch and listen carefully to your employees. Whether it's a major restructuring or a modification to a well-established procedure, change or even the anxiety over impending change can unsettle your employees and negatively impact the workplace. Sometimes employees will express their anxiety directly to you, but other times their apprehension becomes apparent through changes in their performance or behavior. This is especially true when change threatens their normal routine. Take the pulse of your organization. Then take steps to deal with the anxiety that you detect.
 

Demonstrate your concern.

Effective HR leaders know they can't achieve their goals if their people aren't performing at their best. Employees, especially in times of stress and challenge, look to management for solutions. They seek guidance when they feel uncertain and isolated from organizational decisions that are out of their control. As a first step, be an example of transparency and honesty. Open the lines of communication between management and employees. Talk openly and regularly about what you know, and encourage input. Show you care about your people's welfare by understanding their concerns and by doing whatever you can to help them.
 

Fix things if you can.

After hearing concerns and gathering input, address the issues you have control over. Often, uncertainty results from miscommunication or misunderstandings. If, after listening, you discover an easy way to dispel angst, take the initiative to fix whatever you can as quickly as possible. A reassuring word or guidance from management can have a positive impact on employees in uncertain times. If you find the problems caused by change are beyond your scope, avoid promising things you cannot deliver.
 

Train and prepare.

If you have the resources, make time available to your employees to learn new skills. Preparation and training can help them transition more easily into new roles, or look for work in another area or organizations, if necessary.

Be positive.

Remain optimistic. Encourage employees to seek out solutions, new ideas or cost savings. Look at procedures and policies and rework them, or propose alternatives with the bottom line in mind. When times are unsettled, it may appear to employees their efforts are not appreciated. By encouraging them to take the initiative you help them to keep moving forward and focused on what can or might be done, rather than fixating on events over which they have no control. As a group, craft creative solutions.
 
While HR professionals can't always know exactly what is coming down the road, reviewing these steps so that you can implement them quickly can help everyone deal better with change. A little time invested upfront will save time in the future.
 
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