By Koketso Mamabolo
The word ‘impressive’ does little to describe Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts. Her diverse skill set exemplifies someone who combines dynamism with determination and an incredible amount of passion. She is a registered psychologist, specialising in industrial psychology but also shares her extensive knowledge as a public speaker. Creativity feeds into everything she does, which helps in her role as an artist manager.
“I work within Organisational Effectiveness and my focus areas include working in Culture, Diversity & Inclusion across Africa, especially within the LGBTQIA+ spaces, Employee Value Proposition, and Employee Wellbeing,” says the UWC and UCT graduate. “My current projects involve hybrid working and setting up organisations for the future world of work .”
She’s currently working on completing her PhD in Health Sciences. Kim-Lee shared her insights on employee wellbeing, toxic positivity, the role of industrial psychologists and the unappreciated business of entertainment.
How can businesses take better care of their employees’ well-being?
Employees are experiencing heightened levels of depression and burnout. Businesses need to meet employees where they are. The services that are provided need to extend to both virtual and in-person services. Businesses can also investigate making the services required being more affordable and accessible to all. Care packages, virtual or hybrid wellness days, webinars around wellbeing and creating a hype for employees back in office are some of the ways in which businesses can support their employees by taking services to them and giving them a sense of belonging.
What has changed about workplace culture and how can employees and employers adapt?
The workplace has now shifted to being hybrid which is a combination of virtual and face-to-face engagement, interaction, and connection. This has meant that routines, where work happens, and how employees experience the culture has shifted. Organisations have now had to redefine their purpose and what drives employees and what their purpose is and are having to relook engagement methods. There has also been an increase in flexibility and culture has now shifted to that of being agile, where employees feel that they are dealt with as a whole person and that the work that they do is meaningful and has impact.
Employers and employees can adjust by identifying and acknowledging that the workplace that we know has evolved and with that comes new skill sets and capabilities. Teamwork now involves connecting with teams who are not physically together and possibly not even on the same time-zones. New routines need to be set and it is important for teams to agree on new ways of working for how, where and when work gets done to accommodate the changing needs of employees.
What’s the best approach for engaging with employees?
Working in this hybrid world has required businesses to adjust and adapt to where employees are and ensure that the environment that is being created accommodates and is set up for engagement and that employees feel like they belong. Engagement has also shifted to a space where employees want to be acknowledged as “people first” then belonging to an organisation. In this hybrid working world, there has also been a shift to having to engage employees both physically and virtually.
Key ways to engage with employees is by getting to know who they are as people – who are their families, what are their interests etc. Understand what drives and motivates them as people and provide them with tools to be the best versions of themselves. Provide them with updates to create a sense of belonging and ask them to contribute and for feedback on what is being shared. Allow them the flexibility to grow and develop and support them with where they are at in their journey. Reward them with small gestures for showing up as a member of the team and recognize their hard work for example through a bonus for work well done. Prioritise self-care and wellbeing as part of engaging people to ensure that they are mindful of setting boundaries and that they do not burn out. This will in turn not only ensure that they are engaged but also create a more productive work environment where people feel that they are trusted (comfortable), can connect, and contribute.
Please tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
My experience extends to working as a consultant and business partner at senior management level, delivering high-level strategic input and best practice. I have broad expertise across a range of industries, including strategic HR planning, talent management, HR transformation, performance development, change management and organisational development. My track record extends to delivering and implementing HR plans and initiatives that transform HR organisations and measurably support business objectives. In 2021, I added author to my multi-feathered hat when I contributed to a book called Industrial-Organisational Psychologists Engaging with the New World of Work.
I spend a lot of my time giving back to communities through various motivational talks, connecting with corporates and scholars, especially youth, to exchange knowledge and experiences from my journey …but to also be a voice of encouragement and an example of perseverance.
As a businesswoman, I have reached personal milestones, having launched my own clothing label that is currently stocked online at various boutiques across the Western Cape, and my NPO called Khanyisa Worx, where my focus is on the development and empowerment of women of all ages.
What is toxic positivity and what impact can it have on a business?
Toxic positivity is an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic. It furthermore refers to the denial of negative emotions. There is also a pressure and expectation to “stay positive” when you’re experiencing a crisis which not only invalidates your emotions but actually forces you to censor them. Instead of asking for support and help, you end up pretending everything is fine. Toxic positivity can lead to guilt and shame, bottling what you experience.
The way that toxic positivity shows up in the workplace is through minimising other people’s experiences with “feel good” quotes or statements; trying to give someone perspective (e.g., “it could be worse”) instead of validating their emotional experience; brushing off things that are bothering you with an “it is what it is”. It can be a comment to “look on the bright side” or “be grateful for what you have.” Toxic positivity can also show up as a meme that tells you to “just change your outlook to be happy.” It can be a friend who repeatedly posts how productive they’re being during lockdown. It can be your own feelings that you shouldn’t dwell on your feelings of sadness, anxiety, loneliness, or fear.
It can lead to an environment where employees are disengaged and not motivated. The pressure to be productive may also leave many people feeling inadequate and ashamed that they are simply trying to make it through the day without a panic attack, anxiety or crying spell.
What role can industrial psychology play in these times? How can businesses use that to their advantage?
The role of industrial psychologists has been heightened during these uncertain times. We have now needed to adjust how and where we previously completed work and also adapt to what is asked of us. Previously our work was focused on productivity and getting the best out of people to deliver. We have seen the focus shift in that people are now driven by taking care of themselves and this has resulted in business now being focused on wellbeing, inclusion, and belonging, creating spaces that allow for employees to re-establish their sense of purpose and do meaningful work that has impact.
Industrial psychologists have become the bridge establishing a two-way communication between businesses and employees. We are entering a new era in corporate environments where businesses do not just dictate their expectations, but now work alongside employees to support them in taking ownership of what they contribute, giving them the platform to influence how work gets done.
What can business learn from how artists and entertainers approach their branding and marketing?
Artists understand that their brand goes further than the service they provide. Everything from how they show up and interact forms part of the holistic offering that both audiences and followers buy into. The “performance” does not only start and end on stage, from the moment the first set of eyes catch a glimpse of them, they have to embody the principles and ethos of their particular brand and persona.
The music industry is ever-changing, with new trends and habits being adopted by their followers/consumers. Although they may have a core brand personality and message, artists change their strategies and messaging daily to adapt to the continuous change in consumer habits.
The industry has shifted in that the service artists provide is now considered a by-product, and the artist has now become the actual product of interest. Through social media, consumers have a front row seat into their favourite artist’s lives, experiences, struggles and achievements.
Businesses can adopt the same approach, by learning that being customer-centric, and service driven is still vital, but what is even more important is integrating their business or offering further into the daily lives of consumers, focusing on how you make people feel and how your messaging and brand relates to where people are at TODAY, versus a strict blanket approach that may become redundant as consumer habits change much faster.
Is the business side of entertainment given enough attention? How can entertainers and business?
This is where I have seen first-hand the many gaps prevalent in the entertainment industry. We have such a lot of great talent, but not every artist has the savvy and know-how to turn their product/offering into a sustainable business.
We can certainly create more avenues and spaces for artists to become better equipped to understand their brand, and how it translates across the broader industry to ensure that they have longevity and can build their offering into a career.
Though more attention is being given to the business aspect of entertainment, artists can sharpen their understanding of legalities, finance, branding and business health.
Artists need to know and understand that although they may have management teams, they are still in the driver seat of their careers. It is therefore imperative that they are knowledgeable and insightful as to maintain and further develop their space within the industry so that they are in control of their future.