On January 1, 2020, we’ll enter a new decade. Now is the time to start adapting our leadership to the challenges that lie ahead.
There are a lot of things that you could be doing. Investing your energy in some things will yield better results. This 2020 call to action outlines four priorities leaders can’t afford to ignore as they enter the new decade.
1. Ensure every employee understands your organization’s purpose.
In the past, most employees focused on their paychecks and job titles. Times have changed. Purpose matters more than ever before. Individuals who have a clear sense of purpose are more likely to stick around and love their jobs. Better yet, the benefits extend to organizations.
One 2018 study (registration required) found that nine out of ten workers were willing to make less money to do more meaningful work. Purpose isn’t just important for individuals. A recent EY study based on a survey of 474 executives found that 89% agree that a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction. Another 84% agreed that purpose is critical to an organization’s ability to transform. The same study also found that purpose is a core driver of strategy and decision making.
2020 Priority: You know your organization’s purpose. Make sure that you can speak about it in a way that rolls off your tongue. You need to be able to express your company’s mission in a few sentences in highly accessible language. Then, walk through everyone on your team and ask if they can articulate how the big projects they are working on feed into that purpose.
Here, the scorecard is simple: 1) Everyone should know how the work they are doing relates to the company’s purpose, and 2) Everyone should feel energized and valued by the work they are doing as a result.
2. Expand development opportunities.
Many employees crave development opportunities. They want and need to keep learning on the job. The 60-year curriculum (paywall) is here, and it is here to stay. There is also growing evidence that employees are happiest when they are growing and learning on the job. Among other recent studies, see this 2018 LinkedIn report.
That said, employees want more than courses and workshops on how to use the latest software programs. They want access to opportunities that can help them develop the skills needed to assume greater responsibility. These opportunities include leadership training and personal coaching.
In a recent article (registration required), James Harter, Gallup’s Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well-Being, emphasized, “The best learning programs are not a compilation of one-time ‘events,’ but rather teach fundamentals of coaching, including deep learning on strengths, critical employee engagement elements, and performance coaching.” Said another way, the most effective learning programs focus on learning how to learn.
2020 Priority: People are happiest when they are growing and learning and feeling like they are making progress. This means that stretching employees is also great for retention and productivity. So, if you’re not already delegating, ask yourself why. Delegating can help employees engage in more challenging work, reduce your workload and improve retention, productivity and engagement.
3. Consistently offer feedback.
Most Millennials and GenZers crave feedback, but this is not a surprise. Many grew up tracking their school progress online. Now, they expect the same feedback at work.
Finding ways to offer productive feedback regularly (e.g., once a week) has to become a priority for leaders. Leaders who respond to this growing demand for feedback will likely be happy they invested the time and energy. There is a strong link (registration required) between employee retention and engagement and feedback.
2020 Priority: Overcome your fear or dread of giving feedback. Feedback doesn’t need to be negative. It’s also a way of expressing gratitude. It can be a powerful opportunity to convey how much you value and respect your employees and want to invest in them. Always give feedback in real time, and make it relevant and actionable.
4. Stop ignoring mental health in the workplace.
Leaders need to step up by taking steps to destigmatize mental health in the workplace. I did this because the numbers tell a clear story. An estimated one in five adults has a mental health disorder. In addition, the cost of mental health problems could add up to $16.3 trillion in lost economic output between 2011 and 2030.
2020 Priority: The most effective workplace mental health initiatives have buy-in from leaders. When leaders step up and speak out, especially about their own struggles with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, it sends a powerful message to employees. We now recognize the value of taking care of our physical health (e.g., many workplaces have programs that encourage employees to walk more, eat healthier foods and so on). It’s time to destigmatize mental health so the same attention can be brought to mental health.
By Camille Preston, PhD, PCC
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