Op-ed: If you’re not ‘just-in-time’ to coach your employees, it might not be too late

workplace

If you asked your employees to describe your workplace culture using only three words, what do you think they would say? How would you describe your workplace?

I’m asking because we are seeing a significant new problem in workplaces after COVID and, if it is not addressed quickly, companies are going to fall behind, and fast.

What we have seen most often over the past three years is that organizations are moving at such a fast pace that they are losing track of how their culture is changing. Jobs have morphed to the point where people have lost sight of where they fit in the big picture.  

In many cases, organizations are either choosing not to replace people when they leave, or struggling to replace them in this current talent crisis. The rest of the team is left to pick up the slack. Often, the job gets absorbed by someone who is willing to help in the short-term, hoping that it buys enough time to find a strong candidate. In other cases, tasks are permanently re-distributed until everyone is “taking one for the team.” Many teams are running on fumes, hoping that someone will eventually notice that this method of operation is not sustainable.  

As we head into summertime bliss, organizations are trying to make up for lost time. All the while, employees are seeking more downtime. Do you see the conflict? 

Leadership might not even know when an employee is frustrated and looking for another job. Without that honesty, these situations are a recipe for burnout. As time goes on, no one notices that all the little extras have become an unwritten job expectation. Instead, these responsibilities are just assumed and the employees are exhausted.

Compound that with the fact that organizations have shifted operations in many ways over the past three years. We’ve been building the airplane while it’s flying. As a result, organizations haven’t had the resources, or the time, to effectively plan and communicate their vision.

After all, who even has time to think about a change in management strategy when they’re busy running constant recruitment ads and trying their best just to keep the organization afloat? Sound familiar?

However, when employees don’t have job clarity or a line of sight to the organization’s vision, communication breaks down and conflict finds its way into the workplace. Even some of the highest-performing teams can fall prey to this dynamic. That’s when everything hits rock bottom and managers are left scratching their heads about why people aren’t adapting and thriving, despite all their attempts to be supportive.     

If you’re not being deliberate about scheduling daily and weekly “just-in-time” performance coaching sessions with each of your team members, your organization is not going to be able to adapt to the pace of change in our new world of work.   

All you need are brief, scheduled check-ins daily or weekly with each of your employees. The focus should be on clear expectations about what’s to be accomplished, along with coaching for new items that the employee has never done before. The more you can stretch employees’ exposure to new activities that will help them succeed, the more engaged and appreciated your employees will feel.  

Do you want to know the words that we hear most often when we ask people to describe their workplaces? On the positive side, they often say their workplace is “service-oriented, supportive and flexible.”  In the same breath, they call it “stressful, disconnected, with little or no communication.”  

If you’re willing to lean into this “just-in-time” era and listen to your employees, and I mean really listen, you might be surprised at the ideas they have about how you might nurture a workplace culture that yields happy people and great results. 

Isn’t that what we all want?  

Karen Brownrigg is the CEO of Ottawa-based iHR Advisory Services.

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