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In supporting an anxious and weary workforce, credit unions must create open lines of communication that promote empathy and understanding, David Reed, a partner with the law firm Reed & Jolly told participants during the CUNA HR Compliance Rule Changes Virtual Conference.
Reed defines empathy as “the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”
This is different than sympathy or compassion, he says. “We are putting ourselves in someone else’s role. That’s important with communication because we can help with people’s anxiety levels. We can help ensure smoother operations by making sure people understand what we expect of them.”
Reed suggests erring on the side of providing and asking for too much information without getting too personal. “Communication is more than a two-way street. We need to ask staff, ‘How are you doing? What kind of virtual events would you like to see?’”
He suggests asking employees to share their favorite movies or television shows with other employees to ease the stress of the day-to-day work routine.
However, leaders sometimes need to share information that can be difficult to hear, especially as the coronavirus (COVID-19) requires changes.
‘Not everyone will thank you for your candor. But if you candy-coat information, staff will never forgive you.’
“Not everyone will thank you for your candor,” Reed says. “But if you candy-coat information, staff will never forgive you.”
He says credit unions should be proactive in sharing opportunities, risks, and failures, and invite people to work on challenges together.
“If the credit union makes a miscalculation, tell people what you’ve learned from it,” Reed says. “Nobody expect us to be perfect; they expect you to maintain a fine balance as we work through all of these challenges together.”
Reed urges credit unions to develop a “Co-Worker COVID-Covenant,” an agreement which lays out new procedures and responsibilities for staff.
“These are not suggestions,” he says. “Many of these statements will tie to the employee handbook, and failure to abide by them could lead to progressive disciplinary action.”
Reed also says staff surveys regarding health, households, and travel are a valuable way to gauge staff well-being. “Many times, you even help the people who don’t answer the survey because they can acknowledge that you’ve asked for their input.”
Reed says all written communications should answer five questions: