What HR should do during times of uncertainty

It’s unclear how Trump’s trade policy changes will impact the Canadian economy and many employees may have unanswered questions.

What HR should do during times of uncertainty

While Canada’s political landscape remains relatively calm, organizations are still preparing for times of uncertainty thanks to the nation’s close neighbour. Here, one leading HR figure offers advice on how organizations can deal with unrest and increasing unpredictability.

“In Canada people are concerned about the impact of protectionist American policies,” says Janet Candido, founder and principal of Candido Consulting Group.

According to the Toronto-based HR advisor, countless economic questions are playing on the minds of Canadian workers – Will NAFTA be renegotiated and what will the impact of that be?  Will large US firms such as Ford and GM close their Canadian operations and move the jobs to the US?  What will be the effect on trade?

Unanswered questions like these – and others – are leading to a sense of uncertainty which Candido says is both unsettling for employees and disruptive for organizations.

“A sense of uncertainty makes long term planning difficult,” she tells HRM. “Organizations need to be able to project into the future in order to make strategic decisions about markets, growth, investments etc.”

For employees, however, the impact is more personal.

“While they may have a strong attachment to their employer, and want to see them succeed, their concerns will be more personal – will I have a job/income?  How will I pay my mortgage or my children’s university tuition?  What will I do?” says Candido. “Ultimately, this impacts productivity and performance.”

So with so much at risk, what exactly can HR do to address employee concerns and put minds at rest?

“A business leader should avoid ignoring the situation, should not be dismissive of employee concerns and should not provide false reassurance,” says Candido.

 In fact, Candido says employers should consider increasing avenues for employees to voice their concerns during times of uncertainty.

“The HR professional should be providing opportunities for employees to ask their questions and engage in open discussions,” she advises. “If there is no communication, employees will assume the worst and their morale and productivity will suffer.  Nothing is scarier than an absence of information and this causes employees to try to fill the void with rumour and supposition.”

According to Candido, leaders that don’t address anxieties can look forward to a whole host of undesirable side-effects.

“Top performers will find jobs elsewhere, productivity will suffer as employees spend more time discussing their concerns, respect for the leadership team will take a hit,” she says.

The upcoming HR Leaders Summit West will feature an informative session on succession-planning and nurturing high-potential talent in times of uncertainty. Senior figures from DDI, ATB, Colliers International and Rocky Mountaineer will discuss the challenges they face in today's unpredictable environment while also offering practical solutions. More information about the Vancouver event - due to be held in April - can be found online.

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