Role of C-Suite executives in employee resilience amid crisis

While companies have to think of the economic effects of the disruptions, leaders also need to look into the well-being of employees.

Professional services company Accenture’s latest research of more than 15,600 global workers in 10 countries and 15 industries highlights what workers need from leaders in three basic areas: physical, mental, and relational. These needs apply at all times, but they are magnified in crisis. Leaders who rise to the challenge will help their people develop human resilience — the ability to adapt and engage through difficult times.

Companies’ focus, for now, is on establishing the infrastructure to adapt to the new work environment dictated by the efforts to fight the current health crisis. Eventually, however, leaders also need to address not only the workforce’s tangible needs but also the intangible needs such as emotional and mental health.

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Report: Companies must deliver human-focused digital experience

Accenture’s research found that leaders need to send out a message to the workforce to give them some peace of mind. People need to trust always trust their leaders but most especially now. They need to hear one essential message because the workforce is looking to trust their leaders. And they will trust if they believe leadership cares for each individual, the community, and humanity as a whole.

Beyond caring, leaders must show they have a plan. A leadership team that looks ahead proactively, and responds rather than reacts, goes a long way toward helping people in volatile times.

The ability of leaders to address people’s physical, mental,, and relationship needs is the foundation of trust. While all of these need to have equal importance, there is an order in which they make the biggest difference.

Accenture shares these 10 things the C-suite can do now:

  • Gather the troops. Develop a multidisciplinary C-suite “plan and act” center. Gather feedback from all areas of the organization and all types of workers.
  • Relieve people from unnecessary work and activities. At a time when people are worried about their basic needs and their paycheck, focusing on resources is key.
  • Responsible leadership is an imitable formula. Use it. Educate and coach leaders on the five elements: stakeholder inclusion, emotion and intuition, mission and purpose, technology and innovation, and intellect and insight.
  • Hierarchy is damned. If you aren’t used to working in cross-functional, agile teams, now is the time to begin. You don’t get to outcomes via functional silos.
  • Elevate your most visible leaders based on compassion and caring. Workers will remember the faces and voices you empower to lead the charge during this time. Be sure those voices are not only wise but compassionate and caring.
  • Integrate your company’s purpose and values into every communication and initiative. Shared purpose and values are what will give employees the sense of belonging they so desperately need right now. As quarantines and social distancing play out, employees need a sense of connection.
  • Tell a story. Don’t spew data. People are wired to find meaning and respond best to stories and analogies during times of great stress and ambiguity. What people want as human beings are the larger story, the insights.
  • Rally leaders around consistent communication. Establish strong communication governance, guiding principles, and tone. Leaders throughout the organization need to be in sync.
  • You were always going to need remote workforce capabilities for at least a portion of your workforce. Now’s the time. Crisis is never the best time to set up new ways of doing things, but this pandemic gives many companies no choice. Pre-pandemic, the Accenture workforce research showed less than one-third of all workers were able to make full use of their technology to effectively do their job. Now is the time to accelerate human+machine collaboration and support people as they transition to digital ways of working.
  • Don’t allow the crisis of the “now” stop you from moving toward the “next.” Reserve two hours per day for work focused on getting your organization and your workforce to the future. It’ll feel like you’re ignoring the urgent, but two hours, wisely spent, will help move your organization beyond the urgent and prepare for the future.