Employee reintegration post-pandemic will require an upgraded skillset for organizational leadership. Specifically, managers will have to learn to show emotional support for employees struggling to cope with the “new normal” created by the uncertainty of a global pandemic.
What is emotional support? Emotional support is the ability to show genuine concern and empathy for other people. Why is emotional support important? Many employees have been inundated with media focusing on the risks of the pandemic, and as a result, are genuinely afraid. This needs to be taken into consideration when bringing them back to the office.
For years studies have shown how employee engagement can help raise the productivity and retention levels of employees. One of the main pillars of employee engagement is the “Manager-Employee Relationship”. Emotional support is vital to create a strong relationship between managers and their employees. Emotional support shows employees that their managers care about them personally instead of just treating them as a tool or resource to get a job done. When reintegrating employees, managers must show they care. While this is contrary to what was preached by business 20 years ago, today’s employees demand it.
What can organizations do to upskill managers with emotional support skills?
- Train managers to be build relationships with their employees. This could be wishing them a happy birthday or happy anniversary. This might mean congratulating them if one of their children graduated from college or if their spouse received a promotion. This can be as simple as taking the time to ask them about their weekend, or about their family, and then taking the time to listen to their response. Recommended reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
- Train managers to recognize when someone is uncomfortable or suffering. This requires managers to be externally focused on others instead of internally focused on themselves. Once they can do this, then they will start to see shifts in individual behaviors of employees when they are uncomfortable. Remember that the same body language can mean different things to different generations and cultures. The art of understanding body language can take time to master.
- Train managers to ask questions and quietly listen to understand why they are feeling this way. Asking good questions and becoming a good listener are skills that must be developed over time. Most people tend to interrupt people so they can give their own stories or advice. Try not to interrupt or give advice as sometimes just sitting quietly with an employee is all the support they need.
- Train managers to have emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage your own emotions to communicate effectively and empathize with others to relieve stress and overcome conflict. With the world being so polarized on so many subjects it is easy to get upset or judge employees. Managers must use their emotional intelligence to put their own feelings aside to remain neutral when supporting employees.
- Train managers to take appropriate action. When possible, managers should reassure the employee that they will help and support them. Managers need to be trained on what options are available through internal or external resources to employees. Many organizations already have support mechanisms in place, but managers do not know they are available or how to access them. Make sure managers understand organizational policies on reporting issues that should be documented.
Training managers to give emotional support is critical during reintegration to reengage employees. Organizations that can train managers to do this effectively will increase morale, productivity, and profits, while decreasing turnover.