The Russian invasion of Ukraine affects your employees – How can you help?

April 27, 2022
l'impatto della guerra in Ucraina sulle persone: cosa possono fare gli HR?
No matter where you are or what you do, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has presented a major moment of crisis for employees and it’s important for HR leaders across the globe to consider how this impacts their workforce and how they can help.

f we just take into consideration the human cost of this conflict, the outcomes are nothing but devastating with almost 2500 civilians to date believed to have been killed and another 3000 critically injured. Currently, there seems to be no end in sight.

Some have been able to flee (more than 11 million) in order to seek safety in neighboring countries such as Poland, Romania, Moldova or Hungary – even the UK and the US. However, others have not and considering the amount of investment Ukraine has made into technology and science it’s important to recognize the number of highly skilled workers present in the country. International employers must now take into account their workforce based in Ukraine and figure out the best ways to support them at this crucial time.

From keeping them as safe as possible and ensuring that they are financially secure, it can be very difficult to know what approach to take to do right by your employees. We have provided some ideas that can potentially help us all get through this absolutely tragic period.

This conflict is having countless negative impacts from both a financial and emotional standpoint. Oil prices have been dramatically impacted and this means higher gasoline prices for your employees who commute to work in their personal vehicles on a daily basis. If we were to look a bit more outside of that, Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of its grain to the rest of the world and a disruption in the global supply affects consumers across the globe and in turn your employees.

Some companies have already started to attempt to offset certain major costs by providing stipends for gas or even groceries. Other companies have established a commuter program providing the funds for use of the train and other public transportation. Some have done away with it all together and allowed their employees to work completely from home where possible.

There is no better time now to also establish an Employee Resources Group (ERG) for the mental health of your employees. This can aid in removing the stigma behind mental health issues within the workplace.

Read about how Ukrainian CEO Aleksandr Volodarsky is supporting his employees at this time..

Now let’s talk about empathy, whether or not your employees are from Ukraine or Russia or are of Ukrainian or Russian descent, everyone feels a tremendous amount of empathy for those who are suffering through this unimaginable time. It’s important for leaders to recognize that their employees may have different ways of reacting and processing what is currently happening in the world and it’s even more important to provide them with a safe outlet where they feel comfortable to share and discuss how they might be feeling. Providing opportunities where your employees can have one-on-one meetings with their manager or even small group discussions with their colleagues can be a great way to support and lift each other up in this challenging time. HR leaders must also emphasize the importance of respecting each others ideas, being empathetic and encouraging as well as the fact that discrimination will never be tolerated.

Learn more about How to Alleviate Employees’ Stress Level on our blog post.

Communication is key in moments like these. In the grand scheme of things, it might be totally impossible for HR leaders to truly be able to mitigate the real impact of what’s happening, however they can be a major source of support to their employees by making communication a priority. Taking this into consideration they must ensure that they are staying as close in contact with their employees as possible by monitoring their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing at this time. Where necessary, they may need to seek additional help for employee counseling and other crisis management techniques. Above all, making open and honest communication is the priority and should be at the forefront of their efforts.

Additionally, employees want to understand how their organizations are helping and responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine so it’s just as important to provide internal communication about what resources are available to them, how the organization is responding to the crisis and even more so how the organization plans to support the families and loved ones of the employees who are being impacted.

While employees are the number one concern, it’s important not to forget the impact this event is having also on managers.HR leaders have to take into account that managers are also becoming overwhelmed not just by the series of events but by the level of uncertainty being presented to them. Some managers may not be fully equipped to deal with crisis situations and inadvertently not be a great source of guidance for those on their team.
By providing proper training and manager-specific support which allows managers to strike the right balance between empathy and guidance to their employees.

Being adaptable and flexible is key to all organizations as things are changing by the hour. We have all had some good training navigating unprecedented challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic. This is just another example of the fact that we are people first and employees second and we must act accordingly. It’s important to listen carefully to your employees, their fears, concerns and doubts and provide them with the support they need.
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