Employee Engagement is MUCH MORE about the leaders than the staff

"Business looks different." - Captain Obvious

But seriously, the way our businesses look and the way we need to lead them now is different than even six months ago. Study after study reveals the key role that managers and leaders play in supporting a complex work environment and the well-being of employees. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Ultimately, I dare say, the level of employee engagement at your company has MORE to do with your leadership team than with the employees themselves. Read it again. I’ll wait.

On the backdrop of a lagging pandemic, societal dynamics and expectations have shifted. Racial inequities, access issues, pressure on working mothers, stress levels, remote or hybrid workforces, mental health concerns and depression at all time highs, mandates, political division...the realities of our world today place an even greater weight to the role of “people managers”.

I know you can’t control all of that, but the way you manage people today will make or break your employee engagement, your culture and ultimately your success as an organization.

But I’m a good manager, so this doesn’t apply.

OK, so maybe you are. But several national studies from very reputable research companies have shown great gaps in perception when it comes to management’s inclusive and accepting behaviors and styles. In fact, there is more than a 40% gap in perception between leaders and employees.

So we encourage you to take an honest assessment and ask yourself:

  • Do you really know the well-being of your employees?

  • Have you taken specific steps to create psychological safety for them?

  • Are you supporting women and parents as they navigate the challenges of unpredictable school closures and child care options, illness or family health needs?

  • Have you offered mental health support to your employees this year?

  • Have you checked in with your remote employees to see how they are really doing?

Start there and then see what you learn. Especially as we go into new surges of the Covid variants, the holiday season, and kids out of school, pay attention to your people.

People Need Social Connection and Meaning

Employees need to feel like their work is meaningful and that they are contributing to a purpose. It’s incumbent on leaders to instill vision, connection, purpose and encouragement to all levels of the organization so they see and know their impact on the job. Without it, you will lose...engagement, morale and ultimately, your people.

Part of that belonging and connection they need is to know that their well-being matters to you as a leader and an organization as we discussed above.

But it also means that you look beyond the standard views to ensure that every person in the organization can contribute and develop to their full potential. Creating a workforce of thriving individuals who collaborate well, are innovative and perform great work is not only good for morale and engagement, it’s good for recruiting new talent. And in a competitive workforce, that goes a long way.

So, again, we encourage you to ask yourself:

  • Have you recognized the skills, experiences and perspectives of every individual on my team?

  • Have I expressed that I value each individual’s skills, experience and perspectives?

  • Have I helped them identify how they contribute to our overall purpose and growth?

  • Have we identified ways to help them reach their potential in the organization?

Begin Today

You may not feel like you are far on this journey and that’s ok. Thank you for being self-aware. But the key is to begin today. Start with one step. Then another.

But as a leader in an organization, an owner of a business, or the chief executive of a team, you have a responsibility to acknowledge and protect your employees, to help them grow, to ensure they see their value to the organization and that they feel cared for, valued and like their well-being is a priority for you.

After all, performance and well-being are inextricably tied.