February 28, 2012 | Leadership, Workplace Culture + Practices

There’s a lot of volatility in the wind industry at the moment. In the U.S., the production tax credit (PTC) is set to expire at the end of 2012, and there’s a general lack of federal policy to support wind energy development. I don’t know of many people who can accurately predict the long-term future of the industry, and we’re all living with and making decisions in light of this uncertainty.

At my company, we manage this uncertainty through the decisions we make for the short- and long-term and the key messages we share with employees about what’s happening now and how we’re planning for the future.

Communication is key

As an HR director, my focus is on how employees are managing themselves through this uncertain future. It’s the job of the management team to be the container for our community of employees. We have to hold the energy, feelings, and mood of our collective group of employees. This is not always well understood and not always in the forefront of our minds, but is so critical to affecting employee morale and engagement.

So how does a manager do this? One way is through the way we communicate with each other. Over the last few years, our communication strategies have evolved in an effort to be more effective and successful for developing relationships and building trust. Here are some examples:

    1. Company staff meetings. Our staff meetings are opportunities for employees to hear from colleagues, managers, and the CEO on a range of topics including planning, innovation, global markets, and company finances.
    1. Joint management meetings. Since our department managers’ team and executive team started meeting as a group at least quarterly, I’ve seen our relationships improve, our communication become more open, honest and trusting, and the discussions become more productive.
    1. Town hall meetings. Our company-wide town halls are an open forum for discussion on a variety of topics. It’s a good opportunity to learn what’s on the minds of our employees and for staff to hear from the CEO and executives in an informal setting.
    1. One-to-one meetings with employees and managers. Nothing else substitutes for the value and opportunity gained in a one-to-one sit-down with an employee to understand how they’re doing and to plan for the future.
    1. CEO lunches. Our CEO spends an hour over lunch each month with a small group of employees for a friendly conversation that’s led by employees instead of a specific agenda. By the end of the year, every employee has had an opportunity to participate in what proves to be a thoughtful and worthwhile discussion.

Managing uncertainty doesn’t mean getting rid of it, and while ambiguity is the way of the world not everyone feels okay with it all the time. How we talk to each other can go a long way to lessening anxiety.

What are your communication strategies for maintaining a positive work environment in uncertain times?