HR Is The Anchor, The Lighthouse And The Wings In 2020

We are well into the triple digits since South Africa commenced with lockdown in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and there has been a clear shift in people’s behaviour and mindsets regarding this #newnormal.

Firstly, it is no longer new, it is now just #normal, and that is becoming more and more acceptable for people as the months fly by. Secondly, Charles Darwin’s timeless quote “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent. It is the ones that are most adaptable to change” is no longer applicable only to dinosaurs and dodos but reflects how we each adapt to 2020 and beyond.

With many among us reduced to single income households, sick family members, and much added stress owing to the rapid spread of COVID–19 we are more aware than ever before of the personal struggles people are facing and the need to provide a holistic approach to support them.

Recently, Mint Group launched our mental well-being campaign called #EncourageMint, to openly address the stresses, anxieties, and fears that many of our employees, fondly referred to as Minties may experience now and in the unknown future. Through this campaign, we encourage active participation from our leadership team to share their own coping strategies and experiences. This has created a safe space for Minties to open up and ask for help when needed. As each of us redefine our daily structure and routines, the impact on our mental well-being cannot go unnoticed or unaddressed.

Many people and organisations are raising awareness around this, which is amazing, and I hope it will continue beyond the immediate crisis. I, therefore, encourage you to do the same wherever you are, with whatever you have. We are encouraging Minties to practice their “A, B, Cs’ every day ~ stay ACTIVE, take ten deep BREATHS as often as they can, and CONNECT. No one needs to go through this experience alone, and this is where HR plays a pivotal role of reaching out, checking in, and connecting the largely remote workforce through shared experiences through ongoing initiatives, such as daily virtual coffee sessions.

Our #EncourageMint campaign has been widely endorsed by the leadership team. Each leader takes a turn on a Wednesday morning to send out a company-wide email sharing a personal story and a video or article or action to encourage mental well-being and support. The campaign has been significant in creating dialogue and every manager who sends out their mail for the week receives several replies from grateful Minties reaching out. It has also reduced the stigma attached to talking about depression, suicide, anxiety, and financial pressure and as each person shares their story and coping mechanism, so another person is positively impacted and so on.

I’d like to share some feedback on the #EncourageMint campaign we are running from Minties to illustrate the depth and reach of the message, and the impact it has had:

“EncourageMint comes from unexpected sources. A meme, a joke that puts thinks into perspective, a video call with family and friends. But critical is the requirement we all have for consistent #EncourageMint through the crazy new world. Mint’s weekly #EncourageMint messages from different leaders has become a solid and consistent source for all Minties. It just says, ‘We are in this together, side by side and supporting each other.” – Mint Group CEO, Carel du Toit.

“With this pandemic in our country most (including me) seems that we have forgotten the idea that health encompasses not just the absence of physical disease, but involves healthy habits, thoughts, coping mechanisms, and peaceful ways of relating to our environment and to others. So, in short what I took from this campaign is that ‘The secret of good health lies in successful adjustment to changing stresses on the body.’ – Mint Group Debtors Clerk, Sammy Shabalala

“The mailers that have been sent out from the company have been very encouraging. With our daily and virtual coffee sessions coupled with the mailers sent out, I have realised and appreciated that Mint is all about the people. This has made me realise that: “Life is not a sprint, but an endurance race. All that matters is enduring till the end by keeping up the courage and staying safe.” – Mint Inland Senior Accounts Executive, Pani Harito.

“I really appreciate the idea of keeping the Minties up to date with what is happening using the #EncourageMint campaign, I am now in full swing with the idea of the #newnormal and appreciate the encouragement that I get from leadership, it shows that they have the best interest at heart for their staff members affectionately known as #Minties ????.” – Mint Inland Project Coordinator, Nosihe Hlongwane.

HR is evolving rapidly

The purpose of HR has evolved very quickly over these last four plus months, and if you have not adapted with the changing requirements of your organisation and your people, you face the risk of becoming obsolete. Creating and maintaining a safe and inclusive space for all employees is critical in safeguarding your company and ensuring that is not only survives this global crisis but thrives. This means that focusing on taking care of your people, checking in to see how they are, and giving them the support they need in order to perform as required to keep the business going is now the top priority of HR.

Never before in our lifetime have we experienced something like this and with each day, each new statistic, and each time our President addresses the nation, HR practitioners need to respond accordingly and provide information, support, and direction to their people in a quick and careful manner.

As an HR practitioner that provides guidance and counselling to employees, I often use an analogy of Anchors, Lighthouses and Wings which assists individuals in identifying what role different people play in their lives. Anchors are the people who give us roots, stability and security. Lighthouses give guidance, direction and keep us safe. Wings refer to those people that lift us up and help us reach beyond our imagined limits.

In these times it is so imperative that HR fulfils all three of these roles for people in their current and unique journeys. For some people you may be their anchor, giving them safe harbour in this tumultuous time. For others you may be their lighthouse, showing them the way and giving them a point on the horizon to hold onto. And for some you give them opportunity and reason to rise and reach heights of self- and professional development that they never imagined.

Today, more than ever before, HR practitioners need to respond to the needs of their people in the manner they require, constantly creating and maintaining an environment that puts People First. And equally important, you should look after yourself too. Even HR needs to find their anchor, lighthouse and wings! This is #EncourageMint in action, and it makes all the difference.