Most people would agree that the modern workplace is complicated – for leaders and employees. The rapid shift to remote and hybrid work, the challenges associated with creating multigenerational and inclusive workplace cultures, technological changes, and the lingering effects of the pandemic are all layers that contribute to that complexity.
In 2021, I introduced you to Seyi Okuribido-Malcolm, Director of Anti-Racism Implementation at the Department of National Defence (DND). Seyi’s guest blog describes Modern H.O.T. Leadership (Honest, Open, and Transparent), a version of authentic leadership Seyi believes will be necessary to create a fundamental culture shift towards a more inclusive environment in the modern workplace. I believe that H.O.T leadership will also support the development of more civil and psychologically safe workplaces.
Many of us have allowed our work to determine what gives our lives meaning. Anyone who takes this perspective will also believe that our lives have more purpose the more we’re engaged with our jobs. But with our jobs demanding more and more engagement yet offering less and less security, the result has been a generation of people increasingly exhausted and frustrated by their working conditions and their employers.
Now, as we’re seeing in the ongoing Turnover Tsunami – a record-setting 43 million Americans left their jobs in 2021 and 43% of Canadian workers say they intend to switch jobs in 2022 – employers are being forced to re-evaluate their leadership priorities.
1. Focusing on Employee Wellbeing
Leaders, the health of your organization is only as strong as the health and wellness of your employees. Finally, there’s more acknowledgement that mental health is embedded in health and wellness.
The extra pressures brought on by the uncertainty of the pandemic with the added burdens such as parents working remotely while their kids are learning from home has forced many people to reconsider their priorities. This often has included a re-evaluation of their working lives. It’s no wonder that employee burnout has become so prevalent.
Leaders set the tone for living a balanced lifestyle and prioritizing wellness. Leaders also set the tone for creating a supportive and inclusive workplace that’s free from harassment, bullying, and all forms of discrimination. If employers weren’t giving adequate attention to their employees’ wellness before, they certainly MUST do it now.
The constant grind of working to excess, staying logged in long after the workday should have ended, the glorification of workaholism, and all the stress, exhaustion, and associated negative effects need to be replaced with a more reasonable approach that prioritizes employee wellness. Otherwise, employers will have an immense struggle in finding and keeping talented employees.
2. Creating Opportunities for Employee Development
In the past, many employers have been reluctant to invest in their employees. The thinking has often been, “What happens if I invest in developing employees and then they leave?”
The answer to that is pretty simple: what happens if you don’t, and they stay?
In a previous post on the Turnover Tsunami, I shared how 80% of surveyed workers said they are planning to leave their jobs for career advancement and that 72% said the pandemic made them rethink the value and relevance of their skill sets. This means employers need to prioritize and invest in opportunities for their employees to learn and develop, provide access to education and training, and facilitate coaching and mentorship.
Leaders who create an environment and provide opportunities for employee learning and development and offer a pathway for advancement will better position themselves to attract and retain talented employees. One of the best ways to do that is through a mentorship program that helps new employees become more productive, more quickly.
With automation and the impact of technology like artificial intelligence (AI), a seismic shift in how we work and society at large is already underway. It’s been estimated that up to 45% of all jobs will be made obsolete and replaced by AI. But at the same time, many new jobs are emerging that require more technically skilled employees. If employers aren’t proactive in ensuring their staff are sufficiently equipped for the work of the future, they’re going to be left behind.
3. Building an Inclusive Workplace
The antiquated and limiting ways of the “old-boys club” are yesterday’s way of doing things. Many of us have unconscious biases that cause us to favour people who look and sound like us. In practice, this results in hiring people who “match” the existing team rather than hiring people who have the most to contribute. Consequently, most people who are in positions of power tend to look, sound, and think in similar ways. Sometimes, this means that the key decision-makers in an organization have a narrow perspective that prevents them from anticipating certain problems and solving others.
If you’re not truly embracing a more diverse approach to building your team, you’re missing out on a large segment of exceptionally talented people. A more diverse team brings a broader perspective to tackling modern challenges, and more alternative viewpoints to support innovation.
Depending on how authentic and effective you are in creating an inclusive workspace, your team members could also be—consciously or unconsciously—covering up aspects of themselves that they fear are unwelcome in the workplace. Low-key exclusion, microaggressions, and a general feeling of not being accepted or valued in the workplace takes its toll on an employee’s productivity, creativity and mental health.
As a leader, you have an incredible impact on the lives of those in your organization. In the past, this emphasis on inclusion and mental health may have been dismissed as irrelevant and “not my responsibility.” In many respects, it isn’t your responsibility to “make” someone well, but if you want to keep up in an increasingly competitive labour market, it is ultimately your responsibility to remove unnecessary barriers and create the conditions that help your employees to thrive.
Do you want to discuss a career, leadership, HR, or training-related matter? Reach out today for a free and confidential initial consultation by phone, email, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
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