At the beginning of 2020, most businesses and employees were happily humming along, riding the longest bull market in history. Unemployment in the US was at 3.6%, close to an all-time low.
Business leaders had been enjoying an unprecedented stock market run, fueled in part by low interest rates and ever-increasing amounts of venture capital. Money was cheap, and investor sentiments were rosy.
However, the economic outlook changed abruptly in mid-March when governments all over the world started reacting to the spread of the novel coronavirus. With non-essential business activity shut down in many parts of the world, the economy suffered an immediate blow.
Unemployment skyrocketed, and the stock market tanked. Oil prices even went negative for a short period of time.
In our collective memory, there arguably has been no other single factor that has affected businesses so broadly and so swiftly. Some other events that have had a similar impact include the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the housing crisis and Great Recession starting in 2008.
In terms of business planning and long-term strategy, it’s safe to say that most business leaders (as well as employees) did not see this coming.
Uncertainty and Adversity In The Coronavirus Pandemic
With the spread of coronavirus, businesses have to deal with an incredible amount of change. Perhaps the most thorny problem is leading their people into the new normal.
While overall business strategy and business models must be pivoted, it’s important not to overlook the impact that the pandemic and other broad scale changes has on a businesses’ employees on a personal level.
According to an April 2020 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 65% of companies are struggling to maintain employee morale. It’s no wonder that morale is struggling when employees are dealing with the following challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic:
- Getting sick with COVID-19, caring for family members who are sick, or grieving the loss of family and friends,
- Adjusting to working from home in sometimes less than ideal conditions, such as working at the kitchen table rather than a permanent workspace, working off of mobile devices rather than a full desktop setup, or less than adequate internet access,
- Balancing work with increased demands at home, such as kids being out of school, limited or no access to child care, and no help available to do household tasks such as prepare meals and clean,
- Economic concerns such as worry about getting furloughed or laid off, dealing with a spouse or other household member losing their income, or
- An increased workload at work due to other jobs being eliminated or a general increase in demand for the business.
These serious stresses affect employees and their performance at work. Organizations that are struggling to survive through the recession ahead need to support their employees as much as possible through this difficult time.
The Psychological Tools Employees Need
Enter the concept of psychological capital. Psychological capital (sometimes referred to as PsyCap), is associated with all kinds of positive outcomes for employees, like increased well-being, job satisfaction, job performance, and even better health.
Psychological capital is a combination of four other factors, nicknamed the HERO within: hope, self-efficacy, resilience, and optimism. However, these factors of psychological capital work in tandem and are more than the sum of its parts; they work together to help individuals overcome adversity, look towards the future in a positive manner, and formulate goals.
It’s becoming more clear that just having technical skills isn’t enough; there are other capacities that people need to be successful at work. Employees need support in developing behavioral (or “soft”) skills and capabilities in order to fully utilize their technical skills and be successful.
Emerging research in the area of psychological capital has demonstrated that interventions aimed at increasing psychological capital have a host of positive outcomes for both the individual and the organization.
Mentoring Builds Psychological Capital
There’s a growing body of evidence that mentoring can help individuals develop some of the capabilities they need to adequately deal with the issues at hand. In a comprehensive study published in 2019, mentoring was found to increase the psychological capital of the program participants.
When individuals and organizations are going through difficult challenges such as what most are facing right now, they need guidance, support, care, and encouragement. For companies who are serious about taking care of their people, providing mentoring can benefit both the mentee and the mentor.
Human resources management strategies need to adapt to the current environment. However, too many are stuck in outdated thinking that focuses on technical capabilities, overlooking the behavioral skills necessary to be successful.
By focusing on building psychological capital through mentoring, companies can increase their employees’ ability to get the job done, and increase their well-being at the same time.