In 2023, we find ourselves at an inflection point in the world of work. While the rollercoaster of responding to a global pandemic has slowed, the baton of uncertainty has been passed. The workforce now faces an unpredictable economy, widespread layoffs, and a pervasive feeling of burnout.
That’s why the last few years have been a crash course in leading with empathy, a philosophy that I believe is a non-negotiable in creating thriving cultures and organizations. And, more than ever before, employees are advocating for their own needs. Leaders must meet them there.
Here are five tips for leaders to provide both tangible assistance and empathetic support for employees throughout the year.
One-to-one and group check-ins are more important than ever. If you are not curious and working to find out about what employees are thinking and feeling, there is no way to know how to help. You never want to find this out far too late, when a resignation letter lands in your inbox, so always err on the side of active listening and overcommunicating.
It’s also a great idea to ask employees how they prefer to communicate, and how frequently. This will vary from person-to-person and will provide you with a guide for your management and communication approach with each person.
Understand and Meet Employees’ Individual Needs
Listen to what employees need regarding their schedules or other work agreements and co-create a plan that is a win/win. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, nor should there be. You may set foundational expectations such as core working hours but know that your people will be most productive if they feel empowered to be flexible within the parameters you set.
Express Specific Appreciation Regularly
Set a goal to share three positive acknowledgements per week for your team, as a starting point. It is likely that you will feel morale and productivity naturally rise. Even better, model appreciation and gratitude as a cultural value on your team. You may encourage positive feedback to kick off project meetings or provide other easy ways for your team to recognize each other. This effort will pay dividends when the team is faced with a challenge and already know how to support and elevate each other.
Leaders that are relatable have higher retention and more reported satisfaction from their team members. Share to your comfort level and be honest. Sharing a personal experience or perspective while maintaining hope and being solution-oriented is a great way to connect with others. You are human, too, and being vulnerable with your team illustrates that. That willingness to be open will also translate to a team that gives you grace when you make a mistake and need to course correct.
Keep it in Perspective
“This too shall pass” is an old Persian proverb that reminds us that nothing much in life is permanent. While validating their experiences, you can also encourage employees to reflect on and gain clarity about what is most important to them and recalibrate for the future, both personally and professionally.
In almost all cases, the personal should take precedence over the professional, and leaders should keep that in perspective as well. Everyone in your organization is human first, and with that comes the challenges and joys of being human. Your ability to meet your employees in those moments will support a committed, empowered, and ultimately productive team.
Sharon Steiner Hart is the Executive Coach at Talking Talent.