The unprovoked attack by the Russian government on the people of Ukraine is having ripple effects around the world. In times of turmoil, employers need to address the impact that such events can have on their workers, even those far from the center of conflict. This crisis may be the most traumatic for employees with family and friends in the country or wider region, but many are feeling shocked, saddened and anxious about what may lie ahead.
That this tragedy is unfolding on the heels of a global pandemic is amplifying feelings of uncertainty. But as we learned during the pandemic, there is much that employers can do to help employees weather a crisis, with empathy and meaningful support. Your actions now will likely have a long-lasting impact on your people and your business. Employees have choices about where they work and their commitment drives the success of any organization; they will remember how their employer supported or didn’t support them in periods of crisis. Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends Study found that many US employers stepped up in 2020 to protect jobs and pay during business closures, support caregivers and provide sick leave. Managing with empathy is now viewed by many as foundational to a resilient organization.
So what can organizations do now?
The safety and security of employees should be the #1 priority. Employers with operations in Ukraine and neighboring areas have the most pressing challenges: they may have employees who are fleeing, sheltering, or involved in combat. Consider how you can assist with basic needs including food, transportation, communications, healthcare, cash and legal assistance. And you may want to let all employees know what steps you are taking to help those directly affected by the crisis to help ease the sense of powerlessness many are feeling.
Open the dialogue. Even if you don’t have operations in the region, don’t assume that the attack on Ukraine doesn’t directly impact any of your employees -- it very well may. It’s important to address the situation and open up the dialogue. Remind employees how to contact the Employee Assistance Program and tap into other mental health resources. While blast company communications have an important role, managers are the key communicators in this situation – make sure they are prepared and have resources to support employees.
Offer ways to help. It's natural to be distressed by what we're seeing and many people are wondering what they can do to alleviate the suffering of those directly affected. Helping others has been proven to improve mental health and well-being and there are countless ways to help with the crisis in Ukraine. Provide a list of credible charities and organizations that are accepting donations and consider matching your employees’ donations.
While the impact of this crisis will be experienced differently by each employee, employers can make a meaningful difference. Let employees know what you are doing to support the people of Ukraine, even if you don’t have operations there. Beyond that, flexibility, supportive leadership, and thoughtful communications can help those affected directly and indirectly know that you care.