In our work equipping purpose-led organisations to thrive, we try to take time out to reflect on the trends we notice. At the midpoint of 2023, CEO LEANNE MAREGA names these trends and shares what they might mean for you and your organisation.
1. Culture and leadership are fundamental to staff wellbeing
No amount of wellbeing initiatives can truly make a difference if the culture and leadership of an organisation is neglected. We see this each day in our work. Whether in Counselling or Psychological Debriefing people tell us how their wellbeing has been harmed by wider organisational issues. Similarly, academic research is finding that humanitarian workers experience stress primarily due to organisational issues rather than operational challenges.
This is why it is our priority to offer clients support in developing their culture and leadership. For example, a recurring challenge within the INGO sector is the recruitment of managers based on technical skills rather than their ability to effectively lead and manage people. Fortunately, we’ve noticed that organisations are becoming more aware of this, and making use of our support with Leadership Coaching, developing people skills, and surveying the culture of an organisation.
2. Artificial Intelligence is weighing on people’s minds
AI is not new, but its recent growth is putting it firmly on the agenda of many of you, stirring fear, concern and curiosity. Indeed, it is likely to impact all of us, and so there are a lot of questions being asked. ‘Will I lose my job?’ ‘How can it enhance what I do?’ ‘What should my organisation be doing about it?’ Many of the answers are not yet clear. But there is lots an organisation can be doing right now to navigate this uncharted territory.
Firstly, establishing working groups to explore how AI can improve efficiency and effectiveness across the organisation. These groups ought to involve not only the technology department, but every part of the business. Developing ethical guidelines is also essential, as demonstrated by recent controversies such as this. It will also be important to provide opportunities for upskilling or reskilling for some. And as we all start to integrate AI more and more in our organisations, it will become crucial to clarify people’s roles and responsibilities. This will be vital for both staff members and the organisation to thrive.
3. The pandemic is still having an impact
COVID-19 has left its mark on all of us, with many still impacted by the grief it caused. While it may be tempting to try and forget the whole ordeal, we all need to reflect on how it’s transformed (and continues to transform) our lives. Some have experienced a state of trauma-induced fatigue from which they are still recovering. Some are really struggling with the global cost of living crisis. Some are still adapting to the subtleties of hybrid working. Some are still battling Long Covid and other chronic health conditions that may not be immediately visible. And some are having a hard time shedding unrealistic expectations around their workload, after setting high standards and long working hours during the pandemic. Staff members, organisations and their leaders need to cultivate a sensitivity and understanding around all of these things, as we all continue to recover and adapt. Our Resilience Check-Ins aim to help staff teams navigate change and uncertainty like this.
4. The decolonisation of the aid system is ongoing
This is an attempt to shift power and resources in international aid and development from the ‘global north’ to the ‘global south’. It’s grown out of a concern that the aid system operates on western terms and from western points of view, perpetuating unhealthy power imbalances. In reality, this means things like working more with local partners, relocating headquarters, and recruiting in new ways.
This is fundamentally about trying to create a change in culture, and as we know a healthy culture is crucial to staff wellbeing. And so as organisations embark on this work, there are a lot of questions to consider. Is there appropriate psychosocial support in place for team members impacted by institutional racism? In efforts to relocate responsibilities, is it possible to increase the workload of a country office, but without sending adequate resources, benefits and support? Is this process being undertaken in a suitably collaborative way? Do all members of staff feel able to speak up and raise a concern? Our training on Creating Psychological Safety aims to help, especially with the last of these questions.
5. The loneliness epidemic is real
Although it’s a subjective experience and therefore sometimes hard to identify, loneliness appears to be a growing problem around the world. One study found that loneliness carries a mortality risk comparable to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. And loneliness can take different forms: loneliness that stems from insufficient relationships and confidants; loneliness that comes from feeling excluded or unwelcome in social settings; and loneliness connected to a person’s role in the universe and the perceived significance of their lives. This ‘existential loneliness’ can be particularly distressing for young people, who are often the loneliest group in society.
And loneliness spills over into the workplace, impacting productivity, engagement, and morale. Team-building exercises alone cannot fix this. Organisations might consider a survey of their workplace culture to help them discover ways to foster joy, belonging and inclusivity.
6. We’re noticing ‘moral injury’ and the ‘purpose paradox’ more and more
These are two different but related concepts. Firstly, ‘moral injury’ refers to the psychological harm people experience when they are required to do things that go against their own ethics or morals. This can happen in under-resourced organisations when leaders prioritise tasks without providing necessary resources, causing employees to feel like failures as they exhaust themselves pursuing unattainable goals. Secondly, the ‘Purpose Paradox’ often arises when there is a conflict between working towards the purpose of the organisation while at the same time not looking after our own self-care. For example, if the purpose of your organisation is to provide support to communities in need, but you are expected to work long hours, not take breaks and put your care last, this creates a paradox. You are working for the care of others, but neglecting yourself.
We are seeing a rise in people feeling victims of both moral injury and the purpose paradox. To remedy this, we believe organisations ought to nurture cultures of care, in which teams and individuals can integrate their purpose with their actions, promoting compassion and impact in our work and relationships.
7. Climate change is increasingly on everyone’s agenda
More organisations are recruiting specialists and seeking knowledge on the subject. They are considering their own carbon footprint and how they can contribute to solving the problem. And younger people entering the workforce clearly have higher expectations of employers regarding environmental sustainability and climate action.
We sometimes facilitate conversations among teams around climate and the environment, in which we aim to help people understand their anxieties and provide mutual support to one another. As we do this, we are becoming more aware of the power of language to shape how people feel. For example, finding, preserving and nurturing hope is a challenge when thinking about climate change. To help do this, we see value in trying to use empowering language. For example, instead of terms like ‘eco-anxiety’ or ‘eco-grief’, we try to talk about ‘eco-resilience’ or ‘eco-thriving’. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you and your team develop eco-resilience then email us.
8. It’s time to embrace the power of a multigenerational workforce
At the moment, 38% of the global workforce is comprised of people born after the early 1980s. This will rise to about 58% by 2030. Commonly known as Millennials (born from the early 1980s to late 1990s) and Generation Z (born from the late 1990s to early 2000s), these generations can differ from those older than them. To give one example, people from Gen Z often want to work in companies that are inclusive, tech savvy, share their values, and act upon these values.
If an organisation wants to attract and retain Gen Z talent, they need to invest in these areas. But to do this, it’s not just important to understand the characteristics of each generation. Rather, it’s crucial to think about how to integrate and collaborate across generations. This means answering some tough questions. What meaningful conversations are you having? How are you creating opportunities to learn from each other? Have you considered a two-way mentoring scheme in which younger and older team members both mentor each other?
More and more, I’m hearing clients voice concerns about how to manage a multigenerational workforce. If you’re looking for guidance on how to navigate the challenges and embrace the opportunities, then reach out to us.
If you’d like to chat with Leanne about your workplace culture and how we can support you on any of the topics addressed in this blog, click here to book a time to speak with her.