5 Ways Transformation Leaders Help Their Teams Feel Safe During This Holiday Season

Tis the season to feel scared for tech jobs. According to Layoffs.fyi, as of today (Nov 20, 2022), 849 tech companies have laid off nearly 137,000 jobs in 2022. This list includes the well-publicized Meta, Amazon, and Twitter layoffs and over 75,000 jobs lost in the San Francisco Valley.

Help Teams Feel Safe

If you’re an aspiring transformation leader – what I call a Digital Trailblazer, chances are, there are people on your team who are scared for their jobs or concerned about the financial safety of staying at your company.      

I brought this to the forefront of discussion at last week’s West IT & Security Leader’s Forum from SINC USA, where I moderated the roundtable, “Diving into talent acquisition, diversity, and retention.” I asked table leaders to discuss the challenges of diversity and retention through the lens of layoffs, inflation, and a predicted recession.

Our discussion centered around retaining Digital Trailblazers, aspiring transformation leaders, department lieutenants, and high performers (HiPos) in their organization. Digital transformation is an ongoing journey, and I believe driving transformation is a core organizational competency. Retaining and growing the number of people who can lead and participate in digital transformation initiatives is essential to all organizations.

Digital Trailblazer by Isaac Sacolick
“Every organization will need more Digital Trailblazers to develop digitally enabled products, modernize experiences, democratize data, create tech‐driven differentiating capabilities, and drive hyperautomation.” – Isaac Sacolick, in Digital Trailblazer: Essential Lessons to Jumpstart Transformation and Accelerate Your Technology Leadership

Digital Trailblazers calm nerves and create enthusiasm

Talent, Diversity, Retention

During my roundtable, I had a great discussion, and participants shared five key ideas on how to use this holiday season to keep people focused and quell fears. Here are their recommendations:

  1. Ask people how they are feeling. Sometimes the simplest of steps yield the most benefits. Just asking people an open-ended question about how they feel provides the opportunity to address concerns. Leaders should use active listening skills to separate emotional anxiety from real problems and seek counseling help for those who need it.
  2. Build empathy for personal situations. Some teammates will express vulnerabilities around their personal situations, including workers on temporary visas, parents of young children, or those taking care of elderly parents. The possibility of layoffs adds to their concerns, and one way leaders can address the anxiety is to build up team compassion and empathy. In many organizations, there’s a natural slowdown during the holiday season, which may be the best time to grow work-life awareness across the team.
  3. Energize everyone around a mission. If the latest news distracts people, rallying people around the company mission can bring focus. Or better yet, consider developing a seasonal mission, such as volunteering at a nonprofit or leading one of these holiday team-building activities.
  4. Thank team members for the smallest wins. The holiday season is the best time to make amends if there’s any doubt about whether teammates feel appreciated. Consider these five ways to say thanks to teammates that I wrote about last holiday season.
  5. Seek creativity and keep them challenged. While we don’t want to overwork people during the holiday season, it’s also a good time to increase employee engagement by scheduling short, creative, and low-stress projects. Practical ideas may be to organize cleanup activities, such as cleaning up ITSM tools that I recently wrote about and moderated a webinar on. It’s also a good time to schedule a low-stress hackathon, lead a blue-sky brainstorm, or plan next year’s learning and development programs.

Other ideas? Consider these five activities for the best remote Thanksgiving if you lead hybrid-working teams. And if you are in charge of your family’s Thanksgiving celebration, you’ll enjoy my IT leader’s top ten guide to preparing a Thanksgiving feast.

Happy Holidays.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.