By Noura Al Sarraj, MEPRA Strategy Board Member & Deputy Managing Director Abu Dhabi at Weber Shandwick
Be honest. The last time a team member missed a critical deadline on an important project – was he reprimanded with an earful? Or was he asked what and why it happened, and [was] a solution offered to avoid such a repeat in the future?
If the instinct is often the former, then that would not be unusual; unfortunately, such examples of lack of empathy are aplenty in today’s workplace. With increased pressures facing in-house and agency teams today, a stressful work environment ends up nurturing transactional attitudes…often leading to declining employee tenures.
This could be what led people to leave their jobs during the pandemic, in what some economists have dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’ For some, the pandemic triggered a shift in priorities, encouraging them to pursue a ‘dream job’ elsewhere. For many others though, the decision to leave came as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic.
With the pandemic impacting people in different ways (grief, loss, work-life balance issues) and many still living in anxiety, there is no better time than now to adopt a flexible and empathetic leadership approach and weaving it into the overall company culture. There’s no better time than now – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because there is so much to gain over the long term. The benefits end up leading to this domino effect – from improved employee satisfaction (and therefore, tenure) and staff attraction (from positive word-of-mouth) to higher productivity and efficiencies.
According to The Future of Work is Now: the Employee Experience Premium, from United Minds, Weber Shandwick’s specialist organizational transformation consultancy, organizations can deliver a great employee experience. How? By focusing on empathetic leadership, embracing greater flexibility in the way they work, and enabling line managers to make the right decisions for their people.
“The current situation has changed the point of equilibrium that creates a great employee experience; what made us successful in the past is not what will make us successful in the future,” reads the paper. Without it, we risk the chance of driving our people to resign and look for ‘greener’ pastures. The reality is that when there’s a lot of people moving in and out of an organization, it costs companies – in terms of turnover and lost productivity; in my experience, I find that it can take anywhere between six to nine months to onboard someone for them to be fully effective and well-integrated into the team.
So, we need to remind ourselves of what the benefits of having a balanced employee value proposition (EVP) are: from employee morale, productivity, tenure, and loyalty to employee mental health and client retention (happy team, happy clients). As we adjust to a new world of work, we need to consider what lessons we learned during the pandemic and revisit the pillars that make up our company culture to see how we can improve that ever so vital EVP.
In his book Work Rules!: Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead, Laszlo Bock lays out eight attributes that emerged when Google analyzed the leadership factors that differentiated high-performing teams from the rest. As the world opens up again and relaxes its pandemic-related safety measures, and the human connection makes its return to the workplace, we should look at:
In March 2020, companies expected employees to adapt, almost overnight, to a different way of working. The time has come for employers to adapt and look to the future in order to keep employees engaged. There is work to do, and the opportunities do exist for those companies that will activate this sooner rather than later. And the sooner they do, the sooner they will reap the results, putting them in a much greater position as long-term retainers of the best talent – and reputation.