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Creating an Outplacement Support Programme

Stressed Woman

1 in 7 people have been affected by redundancy since the beginning of the economic crisis. Displacement is one of the major changes that can impact on a person’s mental and emotional health much more than they are usually prepared for.

We often hear stories of those who leave the armed forces suffering from an acute loss of identity, depression and anxiety when their rank and uniform are taken away. In much the same way people who have invested much of their time and energy into a job with an expected career progression can find themselves floored by the sudden feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and grief when that progression comes to an unexpected end. Alongside this the loss of social aspects of working with people they’ve seen almost every day for years can be devastating.

Transition Anxiety

Until recent times, the term ‘transition anxiety’ was more or less non-existent. However, as businesses become more ethical and people become more self-aware in these rapidly changing times, we are beginning to understand more and more about how big life changes can affect us psychologically when managed poorly or without adequate planning.

Offering outplacement support is something more companies are choosing to do to help prepare their staff for the emotional and practical blow that can come after redundancy. Being willing to offer compassionate, useful change initiatives for redundancy is becoming accepted by companies as a necessary aspect of corporate social responsibility. The reputational impact of managing such initiatives inadequately can be huge.

For many companies outsourcing outplacement support may not be practical or even affordable. However there are things you can do to ensure that the transition for those affected is managed in the most positive manner possible. Here are some suggestions on how you might support those impacted:

Begin with the positives

Whether the participant’s redundancy is planned or has come as a bolt out of the blue, having a career review that focuses on achievements so far and any milestones such as awards or handling difficult situations is a great way of gently introducing a ‘success mindset’. From a rational, cognitive point of view, it is very difficult to berate yourself and feel despondent when faced with the evidence that you have made an amazing contribution to your workplaces so far. Tackling the negative self talk early is a good way of providing some tools to get through any potential feelings of despair as the news sets in.

Explore transferrable skills

Looking at all the different skills the participant has acquired over their career and matching them to different possibilities and directions is another excellent way of helping them to not only see their value but get a sense of how much broader their horizons could be now. Exploring alternative career options is also a way of demonstrating the possibility that redundancy could be a blessing in disguise. Everyone has skills they may not have really had chance to use or develop before. Redundancy can create the opportunity for the participant to take a closer look at their life and make some important and healthy changes.

Allow Staff to Start early with applying for new jobs

It might seem daunting for someone who hasn’t had to look for work in a long time, but getting a realistic handle on the jobs market and learning the tips and tools for success is essential, ideally while the participant is still in employment. One of the problems of transitional anxiety is that the sufferer can get stuck in a pattern of wishing things could be the same as they were in the past, sometimes idealising past situations and forgetting some of the negatives that came with them. Committing to a new start begins with seriously looking at other options and working towards new goals. Those affected by redundancy are entitled to time off to seek new employment.

Get a clear exit strategy

Above all, creating a clear plan of action to help avoid the financial and emotional pitfalls of redundancy, ideally before the participant leaves work, is one of the most important parts of combatting the fear, loss and lack of direction that can descend on a person who has been made redundant. Being truly prepared for the realities of job seeking and the personal and practical difficulties that may ensue without a strategy means working on organising those things before despondency sets in. Most importantly, long serving members of staff will feel valued and looked after, and your commitment to managing HR in an ethical way will be reflected in what people say about your company to others.

The whole process of redundancy can create a wide range of emotions including anger, depression and relief. The change process can be incredibly disruptive for those affected and those who aren’t. The way that you handle the process as an organisation can have a significant impact on how you are viewed by many.

For information on the statutory entitlements for those impacted by redundancy view the government website.

For advice on how to manage an outplacement programme we’d be happy to discuss any queries.

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Controlling Technology: Should e-mail be banned outside work?

With the new term ‘technostress’ becoming an accepted part of our language, there can be no doubt that most of us are instinctively aware of the increased levels of tension and anxiety we experience as a result of the constant flow of information coming our way through the use of smartphones, tablets and computers during the day.

Scientific studies are backing this up year after year as more information is gathered about the accumulative effect of the over-usage of technological devices over time, with one study showing that almost 1 in 5 people are using technology for more than seven hours a day. A study conducted by the University of Cambridge in partnership with BT showed that over a third of people feel dissatisfied with their life as a result of the overwhelm and anxiety associated with the level of technology in their life.

Pressure

There can be no doubt that when communications from work are included in the mix during evenings and weekends, the pressure to remain available at all times and respond immediately to avoid any problems, hitches or resentment from superiors can create an extra layer of low level anxiety to our existing state of high alert.

While there are advantages to being able to be constantly connected to our colleagues, especially when working on major projects with deadlines and some people working remotely, there are companies and professional bodies who are now calling for organisations to ban emails outside work time. Such bans are in the interests of the wellbeing for staff who may already feel pushed to the limit.

Evidence

A study earlier this year conducted by Future Work Centre has backed up concerns about work emails during private time. The study shows that less confident people are more likely to be severely impacted by the stress caused by out of hours emailing than those with a healthier level of self worth, possibly because confident people have better boundaries and feel more able to assert their right to their own time outside work. It was discovered that people in the creative and digital industries are at the highest risk of the lines between work and leisure time becoming blurred, especially as technology is so integral to their work.

Professor Cary Cooper, the President of CIPD, also makes the recommendation that companies should enforce stricter regulations about failing to respect co-workers boundaries. He went on to point out that the long term stress of feeling constantly ‘switched on’ can affect both the mental and physical health of employees. This can lead to businesses suffering if individuals in high pressure positions end up falling ill with stress related illnesses.

Successful Management of Technology Challenges

Both France and Germany have successfully passed laws in recent years stating that employees are under no obligation to open work emails before 9am and after 6pm, and although there is still no way of enforcing a complete ban on colleagues sending emails, in theory employees are free to ignore them. Would the same rule work here in the UK, with so many companies competing on the global stage and so much pressure to outperform cheaper, outsourced labour on a 24 hour clock?

In the end, it is ultimately the responsibility of both companies and employees to determine how much is too much, depending on both societal and industry expectations. Only studying the long term effects of the age of technology will reveal whether the trade-off between peace of mind and being casually on call 24 hours a day is worth the cost to our wellbeing.

If you want to find out more about how our team of Occupational Psychologists can help manage challenges like these please contact us.

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Great Leaders and Emotional Intelligence

What is emotional intelligence?

The term Emotional Intelligence is very popular in today’s business environment however, our understanding of the concepts and the phrase itself is still relatively young. In fact, the term was first used by Professors Mayer and Salovey in a research paper in 1990.

These days when we think of emotional intelligence, at face value, you might think of those people you know who have great relationship skills and social skills, the kind of people who seem to understand you.

Emotional Intelligence is generally our ability to be able to identify, understand and manage our own emotions and those of other people. This may mean the ability to make someone feel happy or understand when we are perhaps feeling sad or demotivated.

What are some examples of emotional intelligence in action?

Emotional intelligence that you and I may recognise in daily life situations can manifest itself in many ways. When someone struggles to control anger for example and strikes out, or when someone behaves inappropriately in a new group, they may lack emotional intelligence. Likewise, if you make comments which often offend others or perhaps, in a leadership role, you struggle to understand why others can’t perform at the same level as you.

On the flipped side of the coin, those with higher emotional intelligence may be prone to reacting to events which upset or offend with what may be considered more rational behaviour. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence may understand that members of their teams don’t have the same motivation and drive for a certain course of action as the leader themselves.

How does emotional intelligence improve leadership performance?

The ability to use emotional intelligence as a leader cannot be understated, and its impact on performance undervalued. Technical knowledge and experience is often a catalyst for acquiring a senior post but emotional intelligence is perhaps the key to driving the performance of the team once in situ.

As a leader part of the role involves setting the vision. There are various ways in which staff can be motivated to perform but the emotionally intelligent leader will use their skills to inspire performance and behaviour beyond all else. Being able to understand the motivations of others and empathise with their situation will enable more effective team performance and mange behaviours.

How can managers become more emotionally intelligent?

Some may say, quite wrongly, that emotional intelligence is one of those attributes that you are either born with or not. The reality is that we can all improve our emotional intelligence, becoming more aware of our own emotions and those of people around us. It won’t change overnight however, just for example, by becoming a better listener or being more appreciative of those around us, you can make a start.

We hope you enjoyed our blog. If you want to know more about how your company can improve the emotional intelligence of its leaders, then contact us to find out how we can help.

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What is Psychometric Testing?

The challenges of recruitment are many and varied, not least of course in selecting the right candidate to undertake a role. With the best of intentions, interventions such as interviews, CVs and many other forms of assessment can often be influenced by subjective decision making on the part of the hiring manager. Each of these types of assessment can often be the subject of bias which can have huge implications on hiring outcomes.

Psychometric tests are proven to provide a much more objective indication of a candidates’ ability to perform in a certain type of role. These tests, which many of you may have undertaken in the past, are becoming an increasing aspect of recruitment campaigns. Not only are they beneficial from an organisational point of view but that style of tests actually prevent candidates from taking roles where they may not perhaps be naturally suited.

Where would Psychometric testing be used?

Psychometric tests take psychological understanding of human behaviour and apply it into a test format to identify whether or not a candidate’s natural inclination or skills suit the competencies of a role. Questions are developed to identify a certain range of criteria for the role. A financial controller for instance may require a high level of attention to detail as well as numerical reasoning capability. A psychometric test can identify if these skills are apparent, as opposed to the candidate being less focussed on the detail.

Psychometric testing approaches are also particularly useful in situations where there are high volumes of applications for particular roles. Take graduate recruitment for example, many organisations will use psychometrics as a way to filter applications in order to ensure the most suitable candidates make it through to the latter stages of the process. This type of filtering can save hiring managers a significant amount of time.

How should it be used?

When it comes to using Psychometrics in your recruitment campaign, it’s vital that you use psychologists to manage the tests. There are a number of challenges which require qualified input which include;

–          Creating a question bank that does not inadvertently bias towards some candidates and isolate others

–          Providing feedback to candidates on their scores in line with data protection laws

–          Ensuring the questions are generated to identify the correct skill and performance competency

–          Running pilot tests to ensure that tests are accurate and ready for wholesale use.

Psychometric tests are a great way of ensuring that your organisation selects the most suitable candidates for the roles and culture on offer. In order to get the most out of them make sure you pick a team of psychologists who really understand your needs.

Want to know more about how to use psychometrics in your organisation? Contact us to find out how Psyence can help.