Leadership through an Autumn Scarred by Corona: What Employees Need

by Andy Andrews in — November 2020
Selma Grössl, Head of HR, tells how Talentor parent epunkt has managed the corona crisis and which leadership skills are now in demand.

Corona, act two. Many employees had just returned to the office after months of working in crisis mode. Now managers once again face the task of motivating their teams and meeting their needs for security, confidence, and stability.

Originally, this was supposed to be an article about the “post-corona” world of work. Now, from the perspective of the home office window, that was clearly wishful thinking. Instead, it is back to the old “new work”. As StepStone’s corona report shows, the top priority of managers this autumn is keeping their employees motivated. It is a high stakes balancing act with “motivate, provide security, listen, and understand” on one side and “push forward development, pursue project goals, and keep an eye on the numbers” on the other.

Selma Grössl, Head of HR & Organization Development, describes the levers managers at epunkt are pulling to lead their teams effectively through the crisis and shares tips on how to successfully navigate through the next few months.

Summarised: The Most Important Leadership Skills in the Autumn of Corona

  • Crisis management: HR must be a strong partner for managers – for rapid, clear decisions and communication to all employees.
  • Communication and transparency about the “new normal”: how are we working, what are the expectations? Clarity and frameworks allow employees to continue to do their jobs. For example, the IT department should concentrate fully on helping employees work remotely.
  • Provide normality and security: conduct regular virtual meets for interactions, offer trainings, celebrate successes and wins together and share the lowlights. That lessens the burden.
  • Lead by example and stay connected: managers with high emotional intelligence can empathise with their employees even without face-to-face contact. How? By asking more often how things are going, setting up appointments for reflection together, expressing appreciation, and communicating confidence. Worries should be discussed and not silenced.

In Times of Remote Work, How Can You Find Out How Employees Are Really Feeling?

epunkt has been using the TeamEcho mood barometer for years. During the crisis, the questions were adjusted to get feedback on how employees were dealing with the situation. That is how we know that employees felt like they were being informed well and that they found remote work productive. This instrument also showed us quickly, where things were not going so well.

“Truth is always better than uncertainty. Your employees can handle the truth when your managers can offer stability and support.”

Selma Grössl, epunkt Head of HR & Organisation Development
Selma groessl 1

How Can HR Departments Support Their Employees During the Corona Crisis?

Just a little bit of normalcy and wellness can be a great help to employees. Here are some of the measures epunkt has taken:

  • A company-wide sports and movement challenge with an app with which all teams could measure and share their physical activities.
  • Resilience coaching sessions
  • All employees had already taken part in the “7 Habits for Highly Successful People” training by Franklin Covey and virtual learning sessions helped revitalise the lessons.
  • Virtual programs were provided to all employees over the summer und the “Body & Mind” banner.
  • We prepared discussion guidelines for managers so they can reflect on the situation together with their direct reports and get an impression of how their team is doing.

It also makes sense to have a plan for what to do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, especially if they discover the result while at the office. How do you deal with contact people? Who needs to be contacted? A set process for such events creates clarity for employees and helps reduce the insecurity should a corona situation arise.

How to Restore a Sense of Normality

Especially if you are returning to a regular schedule after short-time work, it is important to set a date for getting out of crisis mode. Even if there is still insecurity and the economic situation is not stable yet, we wanted a highly motivated restart. After alle, we did it! We held together as a team! We survived – at least for now. That is something to be proud of. We are going to keep going because we believe in ourselves.