Thanks, Omicron: So far, 2022 feels like an extension of last year’s psychological slog of employee illness, supply chain snarls, operations chaos, and death by meetings about vaccines. Though many balance sheets ended 2021 on a high note, those earnings came at a personal price to executives. Leaders have been burning the candle at both ends and are now exhausted. And anxious. According to a Bloomberg report, 72% of CEOs are worried about losing their jobs in 2022. That’s up from 52% in 2020.
However, rather than rolling through January wracked with anxiety, experts say it’s time for a reset. Here are some thoughts on how CEOs and the rest of leadership can dig through the endless complications:
• Tend to the relationships you’ve been putting off. Executives everywhere have been waiting to reconnect with colleagues new and old “until after the variant calms down.” Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t going away any time soon, so it’s best to re-up industry networks and work relationships now. A lot of these have atrophied over the last two years, because the forums we usually use to connect have disappeared. It’s time to (safely) schedule walks or coffees with coworkers, industry peers and clients to help understand their priorities and what’s changing for their businesses.
• Don’t waste a good crisis. The labor and supply chain crises may be an opportunity to reshape the future. Everybody’s house is on fire, and when that happens, people tend to just react to operational issues instead of systemic, strategic issues. This is the time to imagine the supply chain or workforce of the future. Have a long view: new organizational structures, vendors and factories all take years to instate. This is the messy part that leads to the improvements.
• Prioritize a panacea: belonging. Employee stress, anxiety and depression are sky-high, and creating a sense of belonging reduces all of these—while also boosting job performance and lowering turnover and sick days. In addition to relentless communications about your company’s purpose, focus on creating more personal connections between employees. One approach is to establish mentorship programs, especially for new employees. Pair them with a buddy and a mentor. An ideal mentor can advise on development and growth, both personally and within the organization, while a buddy peer can show them the ropes and answer questions openly.
• Ask employees where they want to go. Growth opportunities drive both attraction and retention, Managers that do this well have a strong network themselves, and really know the strengths and interests of their people. Keep your ear to the ground to see development opportunities for people throughout the organization and meet with staffers 1:1 this month to talk about their interests and possible opportunities.