I spoke to fellow Argonaut Stella, who, in her time as a seasoned HR and Executive Search Officer, has spent her career managing change. She and I caught up to talk about her work in the midst of COVID-19 as, in recent months, she has had to deliver bad news.
She told me, “As a leader, I first need to know what the business needs to survive – knowing what I and others have to do as an organization. Then the next part is how to take care of our people, both those who will stay and those who will be laid off. This is not only hard for the people getting laid off, but also for HR leaders and CEOs as we don’t know how to approach our people during this difficult time and our current policies do not feel appropriate for today’s situation.”
Stella went on to describe how she’s handling these challenging times by embracing more compassion in her approach and by taking these two steps:
“First, we must ‘stop the boat from sinking’ and we need to know what to do to survive – how to keep everything operating. We also think about our organization’s survival with a compassionate heart and head. That means, for example, that in all our situations with our team members, we give them time to process this and support when needed.”
“Second, we [Stella and other Executive Team members] knew that in order for the company to survive, they needed to let go of some colleagues. We took some time to reflect on these decisions, also to be as clear as possible about the next steps, so our team would know what would happen and when. We wanted to help them as much as possible and we reminded them that if not for COVID, they wouldn’t have to go.”
Without a formal process in place, Stella decided to meet with each team member and explain the situation and provide them with time to process the news.
“In the case of laying off a very senior position, we took a different approach as she is a mature contributor and a professional. We wanted to offer her a chance to help us figure out how we can help her exit. She offered to resign as it would be better for her career if she voluntarily leaves. In Asia, there is stigma in being laid off and when she interviews in the future, she needs to be able to talk about what happened. The conversation became a very confidential conversation with this person; she was going to “serve out her notice,” and we worked out her transition.”