In recent years, leaders and organizations have had to radically adapt their practices to accommodate the evolving market in light of a more virtual workforce, the entrance of a new working generation, and the unpredictable world around us. These shifts have forced leaders and organizations to think differently and, in turn, have provided them with new opportunities to strengthen company culture and become even more resilient.
As a business- and human-driven consulting firm, we have been working in partnership with many organizations to support these emerging opportunities, focusing on innovative and forward-thinking development strategies. By collaborating with clients on numerous projects in leadership development, listening to the concerns and challenges of our clients, observing the market, and conducting an extensive literature review, we can confirm that prioritizing employee experience is a leadership must for 2023.
From onboarding to exit, the scope of employee experience is vast and highly multidimensional. While there are certain dimensions at the forefront of this movement, such as adopting flexible work arrangements and emphasizing well-being initiatives, many leaders and organizations are only considering the tip of the iceberg, despite having the opportunity to go below the surface to maximize their impact.
Employee expectations have shifted drastically. Not only does attracting and retaining top talent now mean taking care of our people, it also means putting them first. A unique dimension of the employee experience that is particularly crucial and highly relevant to our world today is the importance of “humanizing” the employee-leader relationship. In a digital world, connecting with others in a meaningful way is challenging and takes intentional effort. Likewise, the newest working generation demands a different style of leadership, where barriers that were once firmly upheld are slowly being broken down.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to consistently challenge your approach and practices. And, in a time where talent is a hot commodity, prioritizing employee relationships is essential.
Here are four competencies we develop most with our leaders to support this:
Listen with the intention to understand. There is no cookie-cutter approach to leadership. Your employees are all different and each have unique needs and considerations. In a fast-paced environment, taking the time to not only listen, but hear and understand your employees is imperative.
Show genuine interest. When was the last time you asked your team members about their passion, or what interests them most at work? The reality is “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Asking and learning about their interests gives you invaluable data on how to leverage their strengths and, in turn, creates a strong sense of connection.
Be vulnerable. Until recently, the narrative has been to hide our vulnerability, especially at work. However, we are now recognizing the importance of showing our humanness. As a leader, when you are willing to be open and show your vulnerability, it allows others to feel comfortable doing so as well, and in the long run, creates a deeper bond. Vulnerability in a work setting might look like admitting when you are wrong or being curious about things you don’t know.
Have empathy. Empathy is free to give, and the ROI is immeasurable. Times are turbulent and taking the time to understand your employees’ perspective will help break down walls and have a lasting impact.
Adjusting existing beliefs, behaviours, and practices is the first step. However, as we’ve seen in practice, it is also the hardest. It takes considerable commitment, expertise, intentional action, and support. Take a moment to examine your own leadership practices and relationships with your team and ask yourself what you can do to further humanize your employee relationships, enhance the overall employee experience, and subsequently, attract and retain top talent.