Arden University’s Deputy CEO Victoria Stakelum explains the psychology of honest communication in effective human resources management during Covid-19.


Arden University's Deputy CEO, Victoria Stakelum

Staff working in human resources departments across both the public and private sector have never been so busy, or so crucial to a business, as during the current Covid-19 crisis.

Here Victoria Stakelum, deputy CEO of Arden University and qualified psychologist, explains how keeping staff informed and being honest has helped support the business and its busy human resources team.

Arden employs more than 500 people at its Coventry HQ and across its six learning centres. All staff are now supporting students via home-working as the lockdown continues.

Victoria writes:

“In most businesses your people are your most valuable asset. They might not be your most costly asset on your books, though in many businesses they will be, but it’s an error to think you can choose business over your people because your business is your people.

I think some business leaders hide their decision making or, keep it invisible, from staff.

When difficult decisions like pay cuts or furloughing – which are really difficult decisions for any business leader, I think it’s really important to be open. 

We’re fortunate that we’ve not had to take these steps at Arden but the importance of keeping staff informed is crucial. 

So, at Arden we’ve had regular all-staff Skype calls. I was open and honest with everyone about how we’re managing the challenges of Covid-19 and said “look this is what we’re doing, this is what we have to consider and I know some of those decisions are tough for some of you and thank you for bearing with us.” That thank-you is so important.

I think a lot of leaders would make the decision and say their people are just going to have to deal with that decision but that’s when people feel a sense of anger and frustration.

I believe that honesty is the best policy and we’ve been honest with departments where we’ve had to say “you maintaining productivity while you are working remotely will have a huge impact on our financial stability and could be the difference between whether we need to make lay-offs or not in the future.” 

So, we’ve been very explicit about the direct relationship between productivity and future decisions during lockdown.

Because if people understand the decision and are given a role to play in its success, they feel more committed and more like a partner in the business, rather than feeling at the mercy of invisible or untrustworthy leadership forces.

But rather than get staff to tell us what they’re doing for every 15 minutes throughout the day – we have focussed on outcomes.

We have made trust our first assumption that says as long as you are productive and help us keep this business running then hopefully there won’t need to be difficult decisions made further down the line. But if you see this as a holiday then the consequences will be inevitable. That level of firm openness and having an adult-to-adult conversation has been so important.”

Interested in a career in Human Resources? A passion for psychology too?

The aim of our Arden University BA (Hons) Human Resource Management & Psychology programme is to enable students to acquire knowledge, understanding and a range of practical skills relating to the two interrelated disciplines which are applicable to commercial and non-commercial sectors, and in a variety of geographical and cultural settings. 

Simultaneously students will develop a range of transferrable skills that will aid them as they pursue business careers or further relevant study. 

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