If the chaos of 2020 – which bled quickly over into 2021 – has prompted your organization or leadership team to reconsider people priorities such as employee well-being, resilience, or purpose, then you’re in good company. And don’t think that your employees haven’t been reconsidering just about everything as well.
In any organization or team, leadership is always the problem and the solution. Leadership is either effective and focused on people and mission, or ineffective and responsible for mission failure.
This is just as relevant to high-performing business organizations as it is to the special operations community, non-profits, or professional sports teams. But if your employees are under fire on the battlefield and they radio for air support, they might just mention a deep desire for a renewed focus on purpose, career pathing, and overall employee experience.
According to a McKinsey report, almost two-thirds of employees in the United States claim that the COVID-19 experience has driven deep reflection on their purpose in life. And nearly half said that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic. And millennials were three times more likely than others to say that they were reevaluating work.
Findings like these have significant implications on any organization’s talent acquisition and talent management strategy – and even the bottom line. So, listen up leaders. Here are the top four trends you need to not only be aware of, but to build into the strategy.
Connecting people to purpose
If you’re like me, and most senior executives, you haven’t given the individual purpose of your employees much thought. The topic is intensely personal – possibly even inaccessible – unless leaders take an appropriate approach. This can’t be another corporate mandate. Managers must remember their role is not just about execution and results, but also teaching, coaching, and mentoring. And all of these elements, intimately combined, drive team performance.
The majority of leaders, managers, and employees in organizations all over the world, claim that what they do at work defines their purpose. Ultimately, an employee’s sense of purpose and satisfaction comes down to three areas:
(1) their purpose outside of work such as hobbies, relationships, and giving back;
(2) their connection to the work itself such as engaging in meaningful project execution and meeting goals; and…
(3) the purpose of the organization itself such as mission, values, employee experience, and culture. Unfortunately, the third area is the only one that leaders can clearly influence.
The starting point has to be the organizational culture, given that it’s the only leadership lever we can really pull on! Open the door to genuine dialogue, deliver more opportunities for people to find purpose in their work and make sure you’re doing it authentically.
Focus on employee experience
In the past, I’ve typically referred to this area of leadership as “employee engagement strategy” but it’s all the same. It comes down to the ability to acquire, develop, and retain top talent organically through creating a cultural environment of high-performance. But according to Wilson Towers Watson, the pandemic placed some major roadblocks in front of any organization’s ability to focus on employee experience.
Pre-pandemic, just 52% of companies had made employee experience a priority over the coming three years. Today, businesses are recognizing the sizeable impact it can have on both employers and employees. 81% of employers view it as a driver of engagement, while wellbeing (80%), productivity (79%) and overall business performance (78%) weren’t far behind.
So, how do companies ensure they are becoming an organization that’s successful at prioritizing employee experience in a measurable way? The best and most powerful way is to have senior leaders who can clearly articulate the company’s vision and everyone’s role in mission success. In addition to that, it comes down to leaders having a skill for helping people reach beyond their “full potential”. Usually, this requires an ongoing investment in leadership development.
Career pathing and succession planning
LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report highlighted how powerful internal mobility can be, with 81% of talent professionals agreeing that it helps improve retention and 69% stating that existing employees stepping into a new role drives productivity. A similar LinkedIn report a year later revealed that 51% of leadership development professional now believe it’s a greater priority than it was pre-COVID.
The leadership challenge here is to not only have the ability to offer these unique opportunities to each employee but to personalize them for the highest impact on the individual and the organization. Not any easy task!
Creating a culture of adaptability and accountability
Hopefully, you’re working on these culture pillars already. Why? Because they are core tenets of any high-performance team. One of the most important elements of what we do at TakingPoint Leadership is coaching leaders in being more successful at creating a culture that’s not just accepting of change, but craves it. Always thinking with the mindset of adaptability and continuous improvement.
Defining or redefining the culture of a team or organization is a very complex undertaking. It’s much more than an announcement at the company meeting and some new core values slapped up on the website or conference room wall. It takes deeply authentic values-based leadership and a measurable strategic plan. And no culture transformation can be successful without trust, great communication, consistency, and high degrees of engagement and participation.