Sarah was super excited to be promoted to a leadership role. She’d worked incredibly hard to climb the ladder and be considered leadership material. She would now be leading the team that she previously worked with. This made her a little nervous and she was concerned how her team would deal with her providing direction rather than doing the work with them. One thing Sarah could be confident in was she was incredibly good at her job. She was technically sound and had the runs on the board to prove it.
As time went on, and she was cutting her teeth as a leader, she realised that it wasn’t the technical skill she needed to lean into. It was people management skills and she found herself on shaky ground. This wasn’t a skill that she had been taught and whilst she was good with people, she wasn’t confident in being able to effectively lead people.
This is a very common problem in organisations today. People are promoted based on their skill, rather than their leadership potential and capability. We are generally very good at training people on skills, but when we promote people to leadership roles we don’t train them on how to lead – we don’t build their leadership capability. By not doing this we are setting them up for failure at a huge cost.
Gallop’s State of the Global Workplace 2021 reveals that 80% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged globally. This was a problem before Covid but there is no doubt the pandemic has compounded the issue.
These high disengagement rates are heavily linked to ‘The Great Resignation’ where in the US alone 7.6 million people resigned in April and May according to the labour statistics. A new Gallup analysis finds that 48% of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. This should be a massive red flag to employers because these resignations are reflective of the low engagement levels and Gallup has revealed that these resignations are not an industry, role or pay issue – but caused by the workplace. And if you need some bottom line numbers around this, the lost productivity cost caused by low engagement is18% of annual salary.
Your leaders heavily influence your employee retention because it’s the leaders who directly impact how people feel. Do they feel valued, are they contributing, are they supported and are they given opportunities to grow?
With that said, every organisations priority should enabling their leaders to lead their people in a way increases engagement and enables their people to do their best work. Leadership is about people and authentically connecting human-to-human. The old autocratic style of leadership is out with the dinosaur age and if that style is still prevalent in your organisation then you’re at risk of going the same way the dinosaurs did.
The leadership game has changed. Employee retention has shot to the top of the priority list for organisations and they now need to ensure their leaders are equipped to be strong people leaders and have a style that is relevant to our very changed landscape.
Here are three things Organisations need to be focused on:
Equip Your Leaders to be Able to Play the Game Well.
Leadership is a people game – not a numbers game. How we led in 2019 is not how we need to lead in 2021. Leaders now need to have a solid leadership foundation to lean on. This means having a deep understanding of who they are as a leader and what their values are. They need to have clarity on what and whom they are leading and therefore what they need to role model. Every individual is different and we can’t apply a broad-brush approach to leadership any more. Leadership needs to be tailored and leaders need to be agile in their approach and mindsets to be able to have meaningful conversations and be great ‘coaches’.
Know What Your Team Need From You and Align Your Strategies
One thing I learnt very quickly as a people leader was it didn’t matter what I thought or assumed people wanted from me – I needed to ask them. That often involved asking for feedback on how I was leading and what I could do better. It also involved tapping into their intelligence and uncovering what they believed would be the best strategies to drive the business forward. By doing that I got a true sense of where people were at, how they were feeling, how engaged they were and I could align my strategies accordingly. Let me be clear, this is not trying to please the masses, this is about enabling people to contribute and feel valued, understanding where they fit into the bigger picture. This improves directly influences.
Connect Your Team to a Purpose and Step Up and Lead
This is important to do now particularly with dispersed workplaces and concern around keeping the culture alive. The more connected employees are to the purpose of the organisation, the ‘why’, the more meaning people gain from their work. They become connected to the higher intention of their work and understand where they add value. Providing purpose and meaning directly contributes to engagement levels which will help with retention levels. This demands leaders to step up and lead and change the conversation from KPI’s and numbers to focus on how they can engage and lead their people through disrupted and uncertain times towards a common goal.
It may take some time to upskill your leaders and for them to get comfortable with their new leadership rhythm but it’s an absolute must for all the reasons mentioned above and if you are aiming to create sustainable growth. We must equip our leaders for success, regardless of how long they have been leading, because people leave leaders – not the workplace!
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