March 30, 2023
Read time: 7 min.

How have our employees changed during a year of war and what should businesses prepare for? An HR perspective.

It has been over twelve months since the full-scale war, and during that time, we were mobilized for an extended period. Despite the challenges, we remained resilient and focused on our mission. However, the stress of the situation kept us on edge, as survival was paramount. This is a natural biological response ingrained in us.

We worked despite the strain – some of us had to organize our daily lives in a new place and live far away from our families for an extended period, and some waited anxiously for our loved ones to return from the front lines or captivity. We worked diligently despite the constant air raids and blackouts. Many of us volunteered regularly in the evenings and on weekends, in addition to our regular jobs. Unfortunately, we all experienced significant losses and received heartbreaking news.

We often lived in an energy-saving mode, but over time, working in this mode can have consequences.

How our colleagues have changed over a year of full-scale war:

– They became exhausted and less motivated for new goals.

Businesses should be prepared for the possibility that employees may be more inclined to refuse additional responsibilities, roles, and career ambitions, and instead prioritize maintaining their usual routines.

– They have lost interest in job hopping abruptly.

Job hoppers are people who like to change jobs frequently. They don’t stay long in one place and easily agree to promises from new employers.

However, in recent times, job security and stability have become increasingly valued in the workforce. As a result, the trend of “changing jobs for the sake of change” has diminished, and the current job market does not encourage it.

– They don’t have the resources for intensive training programs.

Maintaining focus on one’s primary job and achieving a consistent level of performance has become increasingly challenging. Additionally, colleagues may find it difficult to commit to long-term training programs, which may take up a significant amount of their free time.

However, it is essential to be aware of coping mechanisms, such as overloading oneself with work to avoid emotional and personal experiences. Managers should not view this as the norm since colleagues who adopt such practices are at high risk of burnout. Instead, there should be a shift towards targeted training programs that can deliver immediate benefits

– They have become more prone to conflicts.

The emotional tension that we carry within ourselves can result in outburst, when employees react strongly and abruptly to various situations.

– They have a fear of losing their job.

The war in Ukraine has occurred simultaneously with a global economic recession, causing a wave of mass layoffs in tech companies worldwide. Ukrainian tech firms have also been affected, leading to downsizing of specialists who do not have any ongoing projects. As a result, employees in these companies are experiencing heightened fear of losing their jobs and financial stability during wartime.

Recommendations for C-level

In the present scenario, I believe that it is crucial for leaders to exhibit Empathetic Leadership. This involves recognizing and distinguishing people’s emotions and empathizing with their perspective. As a leader, it is important to understand how to manage work and deliver results, taking into account the unique emotional states of each team member.

The values that a leader demonstrates at this time can foster support and loyalty among team members, leading to their enhanced commitment towards achieving their goals and not letting the leader down. Selecting the right people is crucial for ensuring business stability.

Here’s an example to illustrate this point: During a recent performance review, it was discovered that a team lead had been putting significant pressure on an employee for not completing her self-learning plan and failing to enroll in recommended courses over the last six months. This situation resulted in strained relations between the two and led to conflicts.

The employee had been going through an extended period of grief due to her close relatives being in an occupied territory with little to no contact while her brother was at the frontline. Her free time was spent organizing fundraisers and purchasing necessary equipment for him and his comrades, leaving her with no time for self-education. However, despite these challenges, she has been performing exceptionally well in her current role, which is commendable.

Thanks to the efforts of the HR Manager, a constructive dialogue was established, and the team lead was able to listen to his colleague’s situation. The pressure stopped.

A significant characteristic of tech specialists is the cognitive development imbalance, also known as the “know-it-all” effect. In this phenomenon, individuals in their early 20s can appear as seniors, continually updated with the latest frameworks and libraries, but often lack personal maturity and neglect emotional intelligence. This disparity can result in colleagues and managers failing to recognize the challenges these individuals may be facing, such as experiencing loss or having loved ones in captivity or at the frontline.

Hence, it becomes the responsibility of the HR Manager to facilitate effective communication among team members.

 Businesses should be prepared for a variety of challenges, including:

  1. Do not expect employees to make leaps and bounds.

Instead, be flexible and focus on a pace that each person is willing to sustain in the long run. Encourage a work-life balance – the ability to disconnect from the constant influx of news and restore energy. It is appropriate to ask people to take short mini-vacations regularly. We must allow ourselves small breaks from work to recharge, as this is an investment in our productivity. Everyone has already realized that this war is a marathon, not a sprint.

  1. Provide a sense of safety and stability as much as possible. 

Conduct regular all-hands meetings or send out updates from management, share what’s happening in the company, what your plan of action is for various risks, etc. – all of this reduces anxiety. For example, each of our employees has the opportunity to anonymously ask any question to the founders of the company through a Q&A form and receive a public answer. Additionally, there is a feature in our internal HR system where you can book a one-on-one meeting with any of the managers.

  1. Be as humane as possible in all HR processes. 

Consider the realities and ensure maximum flexibility in Performance Reviews, Onboarding, and Offboarding. In the unfortunate event of having to conduct layoffs, it is essential to learn how to communicate bad news effectively. Additionally, consider creating an internal job placement service to assist those who are being laid off. Your experienced recruiter can review the CV of the affected colleague and help them highlight their experience in a positive way. Provide recommendations, reach out to acquaintances in professional chats, and look beyond job sites for potential job openings. Assist the individual in preparing for job interviews, including conducting practice interviews in English.

  1. Make learning programs short.

It is much harder to learn under stress. Switch to a “bite-sized learning” format, where the content is divided into small pieces that are easy to absorb.

  1. Invest in mental health care programs.

This trend is not new, but now it is necessary to take this work to a more systematic level. Businesses should consider creating the role of a Wellbeing Officer – a single coordinator of well-being programs who employees can turn to for assistance and referrals to appropriate specialists for individual work.

The focus of psycho-educational programs should be on techniques for stabilizing one’s emotional state and reducing acute anxiety. Few people now have the resources for deep psychotherapy, as it can be emotionally demanding. Therefore, crisis counseling may be a better option for finding support in the here and now.

In 2023, leaders should be as courageous and flexible as possible, while employees should be as responsible and mature as possible, so that we can successfully navigate all challenges and await growth.

How have our employees changed during a year of war and what should businesses prepare for? An HR perspective.

It has been over twelve months since the full-scale war, and during that time, we were mobilized for an extended period. Despite the challenges, we remained resilient and focused on our mission. However, the stress of the situation kept us on edge, as survival was paramount. This is a natural biological response ingrained in us. […]