Leaders continue to realize that improving employee engagement brings a number of benefits to the organization. I am not an expert in history, although I do enjoy reading history. I have always been impressed with General George Patton and what he accomplished. One of his quotes that resonated with me is, “Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” Do you think Patton knew this was a way to have his troops engaged?
Oftentimes in a leadership position, we may find this difficult to do. However, I tend to agree with his approach, if we hire the right people and give our people the tools and training they require, they should be able to do the job. Well, perhaps, but I suggest that it takes more to reach that “engaged” stage.
Patton understood better than many that being a leader requires we also act as a coach for our employees. This translates into understanding what must be done to engage our employees and keep them engaged, to help them develop a clear and concise understanding of the goals, to realize the opportunity they have to grow themselves and the business, to recognize how they can improve, and to understand how they can enjoy their opportunity.
Being a leader requires that we also act as a coach for our employees. Simply put, we must engage our employees in relationships and communication that enable us to do the following:
- Help them develop a clear and concise understanding of what is required of them
- Increase and enhance their skills and their contribution to the business through the training we offer and through our effort to upskill them
- Show them a path on how to achieve growth themselves and foster growth for the organization
- Work with them to improve upon their weaknesses
- Continue to further develop and reinforce their strengths.
It took me probably too long to realize that to accomplish this I needed to understand a few things:
First, the value in hiring people that have a passion for what they do and are driven by a desire for success. This does not discount the need to find a way to have them demonstrate some level of competence to coincide with the needs of the position. Goodness knows I tried to be an authentic leader during my career, but I will admit there were times that I allowed myself to lose sight of that hiring objective and what steps need to be taken to assure we would realize the value of that hire.
Second, in today’s environment, we cannot discount the need to look for varying levels of emotional intelligence in the people we look to bring onto the team. At a support level, we should be looking for some level of soft skills, communication skills, engaging style, creativity and, of course, empathy. They should see themselves as using these attributes to become a highly valued internal resource.
Third, once you have hired the candidate, you want an environment for them to succeed. The next area of focus should be your onboarding process. This must be formal. New employees need to feel supported and have a conduit for questions and concerns. Design a process that pairs their formalized and targeted training with mentoring. Make sure they clearly understand the expectations of the position and see a clear path for learning and growing. This will make them feel comfortable in seeking help as they realize they have a support network. They will quickly feel a sense of value and team support. WORKRAMP points out in their research that “effective onboarding programs transform a nervous newbie into a vital team member and brand ambassador who’s comfortable discussing various talking points about the company, product, and their role. Onboarding sets the stage for the entire employee experience.”
Fourth, I strongly recommend that not only should you have a very formalized onboarding process, but, when it comes to the frontline personnel, you should have an in-house certification process. Sam Klaidman of Middlesex Consulting points out that “a professional certification signifies that an individual is proficient in performing a certain task or job.” This approach assures that there is a targeted and tested training program in place. This will impress your customers that you take this extra step to service them, and it will further engage your employees, especially since the company is further investing in them and their growth.
These steps I am talking about will work to help the employee feel connected to the purpose and value of the organization. Coupling these with the right tools and technology give the employee an empowered feeling. In fact, McKinsey points out that “rounding out the top five attributes for frontline employees are learning opportunities, an aligned skill set, and a supportive manager. Employees desire jobs that make the most of their current skills and allow them to learn and build new ones.”
In summary, I suggest you become a very engaged coach and mentor to your new hires. Focus on their hiring and do not stop there. Continue your focus on their roles, building their confidence and expertise, and adding clarity to the role they play and the outcomes expected. Keep in mind that you may see these as disruptive times. However, your employees experience these times as being much more complex and disruptive than you likely imagine, especially in a new environment. Here is where your mastery of soft skills in your leadership style becomes essential. You need to use empathy, be conscious of how effectively and frequently you communicate, use your self-management, and, of course, your emotional intelligence.
As you use your skills and invest in your new hires, provide them with the tools that facilitate a blending of team members, whether they are in the office or remote. Do not forget the basics of the “3-legged stool” of people, processes, and technology. They tie together and need your attention at the detailed level. There are no shortcuts to developing a sense of purpose and well-being among your new hires.
Dennis Gershowitz is Principal with DG Associates