How to Manage a “Permacrisis”

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How to Manage a “Permacrisis”

In searching for a word that summed up 2022, Collins Dictionary settled for permacrisis: “a term that describes ‘an extended period of instability and insecurity.’”

It’s a term that the Collins Language Lovers’ blog refers to as “perfectly embod(ying) the dizzying sense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another”; also pointing out that the 2020s have already “seen their fair share of upheaval – and we’re only two years in!”

With the ongoing fallout from such upheaval, including the after-effects of Covid-19, war still raging in Ukraine, and the ever-rising cost of living, it’s fair to assume that the sense of “permacrisis” will extend well into 2023.

So how, exactly, should organisations respond?

All for one, and one for all

Certainly, those expecting HR alone to solve their ‘people problems’ may need to think twice. 

A recent FT article highlights a post-Covid corporate trend that expects HR to pick up the people-related slack, in that “there are few current management preoccupations that do not end up becoming the human resources team’s problem.”

This is worrying, the article further notes, since a recent survey showed that 98 per cent of HR professionals in the UK and US “felt burnt out.”  Yet somewhat ironically, those same HR professionals are also expected to solve the problem of wider employee burnout.

Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, acknowledged in a recent blog post that “pressure on the people profession has never been greater,” with a cursory nod to the complexities of modern times. 

“Now, there are fewer rules but also more variables – pay and reward, restructuring, flexible working, changing industrial relations, skills shortfalls, policy changes and legal uncertainties.”  How organisations respond, Cheese notes, “is likely to set the scene for the coming decade.”

In other words, it’s time for everybody to step up, and focus on what really matters.

Be more human

Has your organisation introduced a plethora of costly wellbeing measures, from meditation apps to at-desk massages, in the hope of boosting post-pandemic employee loyalty and engagement?

If so, consider that these may not be as effective as hoped.  Data from Gallup’s latest Global Indicator shows that the percentage of employees who believe their employer cares about their wellbeing has dropped below pre-pandemic levels. 

Across the globe, only 21% of employees are currently saying that they feel engaged at work.  The result, Gallup concludes, is an estimated global gross domestic product deficit of up to $7.8tn from the lost productivity, absenteeism, and disruption brought by disengaged employees.

The FT article mentioned above advocates a ‘back to basics’ approach, in which organisations focus less on fancy, faceless ‘wellbeing initiatives’ and more on the things employees say they most want, such as a listening ear for their ideas, being trusted to work flexibly, and feeling supported in a crisis. 

“Staff suffering from burnout might find mindfulness sessions or advice on healthy eating helpful,” it notes, “but hiring an extra colleague to share the work with would probably help them more.”

Of course, taking a more human-centric approach naturally puts managers at the forefront.  However, a whitepaper released by the workplace consultancy MindGym found that “confidence in leaders is dropping at an alarming rate,” with two in three managers even wishing they didn’t have to manage people anymore.

Allowing HR to focus on developing and supporting managers, so that they in turn can support their teams in the most effective ways, may seem simple.  But simplicity is a clear and refreshing response to the overwhelming complexity of the “permacrisis” the world is currently facing.

It may also turn out to be the most effective response.

We at Viridian HR are happy to discuss your employee concerns, or how to upskill your organisation’s management team, in confidence. 

Contact our expert team to find out more.

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