Business leaders will look back on 2017 as a turbulent year, having contended with varying degrees of disruption on global, political and technological fronts. Instead of dwelling on disruptions of the last 12 months, effective leaders must pick themselves up, dust themselves off and determine their visions for leading their businesses towards success in 2018, writes Samantha Caine, Client Services Director at Devon-based human capital consultancy and training firm Business Linked Teams.
For leaders equally as perplexed as their workforces, this may seem easier said than done and it can feel like a struggle to find a strong footing for stable leadership. Yet, in the fast-changing environment that businesses now find themselves in, workforces need strong leaders more than ever. If 2017 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected, but with these four points in mind, business leaders can provide the right levels of stability and optimism that will keep the workforce strong, confident and successful.
1. Lead in listening
It’s all too easy to come up with your own exciting action plans for achieving business objectives, and it’s just as easy to present those plans of action to your team or wider organisation expecting them to feel equally as enthusiastic as you are. However, effective leaders must place themselves in the shoes of those that they’re leading, because they will also have valuable ideas or concerns about the path that is being chosen for them.
Asking the workforce questions and involving them in decision making is a great way to drive employee engagement and increase their feelings of value while sourcing a wider range of possible solutions from which the best strategy can be formed.
2. Act on your findings
Listening to your employees is certainly an effective way to make them feel valued, but listening is only half of the job. Wherever necessary, leaders should act to address thoughts and concerns and just as importantly to implement good ideas and suggestions. Not only does this help to maximise employee satisfaction levels, it’s also likely to have a positive impact on individual performance and the achievement of business objectives.
Leaders balancing countless responsibilities can easily miss simple things that could make big differences when addressed properly. Think of the workforce as your sounding board and don’t be afraid to act upon their suggestions or to reward those who put them forward, otherwise the simply listening could easily perceived as an empty gesture.
3. Add value with training and development
With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, today’s workforces are fast becoming almost exclusively millennial, and the millennial generation is notorious for its high levels of expectation. Successful leaders must put every effort into understanding their workforces in order to get the best of them and there are plenty of studies that provide helpful insights for those leading the millennials through their working lives.
According to a recent PwC study, 52 percent of millennials say that the opportunity for career progression is the most desirable quality in a workplace, placing it above competitive wages and financial incentives (44 percent). The same study found that 35 percent of millennials prefer to be employed by organisations that offer good training and development programs, while another study by the HRPA reports that 63 percent of millennials feel their leadership skills are not being developed.
Recognising where training is required within your workforce and developing successful training programmes will not only increase employee satisfaction, it will strengthen your workforce and, judging by the statistics, will also improve employee retention.
4. Communicate and demonstrate the value of the human workforce
If the national newspaper headlines are to be believed, the rise of robots in the workplace has certainly caused a furore, but what do the studies tell us? The aforementioned study by PwC also questioned respondents over the anxieties about technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation threatening their livelihoods and found that 73 percent of the respondents don’t believe that technology can ever replace the human mind.
Effective leaders must ease the anxieties of their workforces by communicating what we know to be true; while some workplaces may be utilising ‘robots’ in the place of the human to undertake the mundane tasks, technology simply cannot match soft skills such as sales and communication skills, and this is where employees can continue to excel.
Strong leadership requires certain skills and behaviours that those who find themselves in leadership positions don’t always have, or don’t have the confidence to use. Investing in a leadership training that is tailored to the business and its specific requirements will ensure that those in leadership are truly fit to lead, and that the workforces looking to them for guidance are in the safest possible hands.