In 2020 the world changed forever. COVID-19 materially shifted how we approach and think of the workplace. COVID-19 has in fact been a catalyst in reinforcing the need to rethink “leadership” in the light of the fact that by 2025 75% of the Global Workforce will be made up of Millennials.
In today’s shifting world, it is no longer enough for those in positions of leadership to approach their role as one of authority. In fact, there was never significant evidence to support this style outside of emergency situations. Trends in our job data are now indicating that this is a losing proposition to retain key talent. The primary reason that employees leave an organization is due to their direct superior.
Thought leaders have opined on how managers need to be more flexible, responsive, and supportive to their team members as we struggle to adapt to the new reality of not being together in one physical location to accomplish collective organizational goals.
Current research is clear that what employees now seek is an engaging workplace which includes flexibility, balanced lifestyle, contribution and purpose. Leaders must now think and act on how they perform their role differently as a leader to provide this kind of environment.
The following are actionable takeaways that leaders can look to as they navigate today’s new environment.
Service leadership is grounded in putting the needs and aspirations of the team members first as long as they are aligned with accomplishing the mission of the team.
A service-oriented leader will shift their mindset from that of the autocratic leader who prioritizes their own needs over others to working daily to listen, support, and enable their team members to accomplish the collective goals. This is accomplished by creating an open and productive work environment that empowers each person within the group to achieve results and learn and grow within the organization. The service leadership approach has gained considerable traction as leaders look to address the changing needs of younger generations in the workforce. It begins with an acknowledgment of the true power relationship, which is that leadership is bestowed upon the leader from those whom they lead.
Over the past year, as employees worked-from-home and spent countless hours communicating via a screen, the monotony of many roles has been amplified. This repetitiveness often leads to further disgruntlement and loss of motivation for people as they conduct their jobs. Recognizing this added stress, leaders have an opportunity to utilize a research-based motivational technique that can enable greater productivity: task diversification.
If a colleague traditionally does the same task day-in and day-out, leaders can identify opportunities to introduce new tasks into the workday. For example, you may have your employee assist on a project or broadening their portfolio while simultaneously providing for career growth as they learn new aspects of the organization. Injecting new tasks into the colleague’s day can help break the monotony of sitting in front of a computer screen. It also engages the mind in a different way, often leading to enhanced motivation for their work.
Each organization faces their unique challenges; a common and consistent challenge is how to maintain motivated colleagues. The millennial generation has been vocal about their desire to work with organizations that are socially responsible and are aligned with their values, while older generations are beginning to follow suit. Many organizations that are not inherently providing a socially responsible product or service have recognized that they must look to position themselves through Corporate Social Responsibility programs to not only give back, but also attract and retain key talent that places significant value on how an organization interacts with the planet and its constituents.
Leaders must be attuned to this ever-changing environment and be ready and able to communicate to their colleagues how they intend to be socially responsible. Some industries such as healthcare are well-positioned to communicate a strong purpose to its employees, while others must reflect inward and determine how to connect and communicate their purpose. If your organization’s purpose does not necessarily resonate with your team, it is time to reflect on how to better position your purpose so that it does.
As leaders we must work harder to understand the science of organizations and leadership and modify our own styles to meet today’s changing challenges. Practicing service leadership enables us to connect with our team members in a different dynamic as the needs of the person are put first. Leaders can look to enhance productivity that may have waned due to the monotony of the past year by introducing new, meaningful tasks into the employee’s workday. Finally, leaders should look to clearly communicate the organization’s purpose and search for other opportunities to act in a socially responsible manner, which will ultimately help the organization attract and retain talent.
Rob Francis is the Principal Consultant at Francis Organizational Consultants; a firm that specializes in organizational behaviour change. Rob Francis is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, and holds a Masters of Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Rob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 704-3064.