How to Be a Standout Leader During Times of Uncertainty

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Attractive as it might sound; remote working has led to collective burnout among employees.

Along with the fear of the pandemic, the loss of connection with colleagues, the fear of losing jobs, the economic downturn, and the unstable socio-economic environment has added to the employees’ stress. Add that to the blurring lines between personal and professional lives and the pressure of proving productivity, and we have a perfect recipe for an upcoming disaster.

According to a survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America, 75% of employees are experiencing burnout at work. 40% are specifically feeling it during the pandemic.

What employees need right now is not a manager who is focused solely on getting work done.

They need a leader who will reassure them and instill confidence in them that they can tide over these uncertain times.

What organizations need right now is a standout leader who will not just innovate but also inspire employees by being compassionate and leading from the front.

Let’s look at some qualities that a standout leader must possess. 

How to Be a Standout Leader in Times of Uncertainty

Be a mentor instead of a manager

The uncertain scenario is likely to make employees anxious. They might have several questions about the future of their career, the right path to achieve career goals, how to grow in the organization, etc. They need a reliable person who has the experience and has weathered several ups and downs in the industry to give sound and unbiased advice. They need a mentor who will understand their aspirations and coach on how to achieve them. While thinking about productivity and company goals, a standout leader focuses on helping employees achieve their goals. A highly motivated employee will automatically be able to achieve company goals too. 

Read: Train Managers to Become Better Coaches

Adopt an infinite mindset

Author Simon Sinek first professed the theory of infinite mindset. In his book called ‘The Infinite Game’, Sinek discusses two types of mindsets – the finite mindset and the infinite mindset. The finite mindset is apt for games like chess and football, where the rules are set, and the endpoint is clear. There is a clear distinction between winners and losers. But in the business world, leaders need to have an infinite mindset. That’s because the rules will change depending upon the environment, there will be no endpoints, and there is no winner or loser. The business is just ahead or behind in the competition. An infinite mindset will help organizations to build a sustainable business and constantly innovate to thrive in the future. In the current times, that’s what is expected from a standout leader. 

Encourage employees to upskill and future-proof themselves

Organizations have started to realize the importance of digital transformation and are increasingly using automation and other next-gen technologies to increase accuracy and productivity and to decrease overhead expenses. A standout leader will predict this change and plan ways to future-proof the employees. They understand that an employee can thrive only if they upskill themselves. They will have one-to-one discussions to understand the strength and limitations of the employees and design a personalized training map to ensure that they are updated with the latest know-how of the industry. 

Read: The Missing Piece in Reskilling Initiatives 

Improve employee engagement through personalized conversation

The absence of physical connection and water-cooler moments has led to low morale among employees. It’s important to engage employees, so they feel valued and contribute actively to the growth of the organization. 

Highly engaged employees are 480% more likely to stay committed to the organization. 

True leaders will find ways to engage actively with employees. They will not see it as a drill. They will have a 1:1 personalized, two-way conversation with employees to understand their aspirations, goals, roadblocks, and coach them on ways to achieve it. They will leverage technology to track and measure the outcome of coaching. 

Make employees feel safe by boosting their confidence

Employees are understandably worried about what lies ahead for them in the future. It is up to  leaders to step in and make employees feel safe. They will listen to the concerns and not dismiss them as irrational fears. Through personalized coaching and continuous communication, they will boost the employees’ confidence and make them feel safe at the workplace. 

Be empathetic to the needs of employees

Apart from being an employee, a person also dons multiple hats such as that of a parent or a caregiver. With the lines between work and family time blurring and employees suffering from burnout, it’s time for leaders to understand the challenges that employees face while working remotely and find ways to support them through tough times. They will lend them a patient hearing to ensure that they feel heard and valued in the organization. 

Conclusion

It’s been more than several months since the pandemic hit the world. Employees are quickly adapting to the new normal. As they traverse through the challenges of working from home and fighting the fears of the pandemic and financial losses, leaders have to create innovative solutions to prevent burnout and engage employees. 

Solutions like NumlyEngage are designed to help leaders leverage the power of coaching to enhance employee engagement and productivity, and reduce attrition!

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The impact of employee engagement on productivity and business growth, is one of the key reasons why organizations worldwide are focusing and honing their employee engagement strategies. 

Research shows that organizations with high employee engagement levels are 21% more profitable. Another study on workplace engagement shows that disengaged employees cost an organization $450-550 billion each year. 

Employee engagement has a clear impact on business outcomes and hence should become (if it is not already so) one of the key strategic initiatives of an organization.

However, we also have to consider the multiple forces at play in today’s work environment. The intensity of competition in today’s markets has increased due to technological advancements and globalization. Also, organizations are working with a multi-generational workforce, with millennials and Gen Z now establishing a dominant presence. 

Given these shifts, a traditional employee engagement strategy that relies solely on annual engagement surveys and cosmetic perks no longer holds water. The expectations of today’s workforce from their organizations are different. To resonate with the new workforce, it becomes imperative for employee engagement strategies to drive consistent and multi-touch interactions.

 So what goes into designing such an employee engagement strategy?

Focus on context 

Content could be king, but context is the emperor. 

Owing to the rise of the multi-generational workforce, a multi-touch employee engagement strategy begins with moving away from the traditional ‘cut-and-paste’ model and towards becoming more contextual. 

Today we are looking at remote and geographically dispersed teams, specialized job roles, and different motivations to work. Elements like age, gender, ethnicity, and personality also impact engagement levels. 

To be relevant to the workforce, the engagement strategy has to be contextual and has to address the different needs of all employees. For example, the engagement needs of a fresher will be different from that of a senior manager. The parameters of engagement will be different for a remote worker or a frontline employee than the employees who work together from a physical office space. The engagement needs of women employees could be different from their male counterparts. 

Instead of going by the traditional gut-feel, organizations today have to take a more quantified and measurable approach to measure the exact needs of their workforce. Leveraging assessments such as Behavioral Skill Assessment tests and 16 Personality Factor assessments can jumpstart employee engagement initiatives and make them contextual and relevant to the workforce. It also helps them further their professional goals and helps them find a purpose in their job roles. All of these contribute to higher engagement levels. 

By recognizing these differences, organizations have to strive to create contextual training plans which resonate with the employees and encourage them to invest discretionary efforts towards their roles and responsibilities. 

Keep it continuous

Traditional employee engagement strategies depend on annual surveys, occasional training programs, and cosmetic attractions such as fancy cafeterias and lavish end-of-year parties. However, as we see the rise of the millennial workforce, we are compelled to take cognizance of the one thing they demand – ‘value’ and ‘purpose’.

Employee engagement strategies have to become more value-driven and have to now deliver a tangible impact on the lives of the employees by becoming more purposeful. For this to happen, engagement strategies have to move beyond their occasional appearance and have to become more intentional, continuous, and focused on creating meaningful exchanges. 

This can only happen when engagement becomes a continuous exercise. Organizations have to be on a continuous exploration mode to proactively identify the needs of their workforce based on quantified data. Continuously evaluating the needs of the employees, tracking progress, and designing initiatives to help them succeed in their professional journey will drive higher engagement. The end of the year annual engagement survey is now redundant. 

Keep it dynamic 

Much like how organizations expect their employees to be on the path of continuous improvement, their engagement strategies have to be the same. Engagement initiatives such as learning and development programs, upskilling and reskilling programs, power skill training also have to adopt this road of continuous improvement and evolution according to the skill levels of the employees.

As employees undergo skill improvement initiatives, be it training, coaching or mentoring, organizations have to develop the capability to measure the impact of these initiatives. With the data in hand, organizations can then customize and improve their training plans. 

For this, all engagement initiatives must be tweaked and designed to meet the learning needs of the employees. Using technologies such as AI can help organizations further this goal by gaining deep and contextual insights into each employee’s skill gap, learning needs, and learning process. Being dynamic in approach is essential for the success of all employee engagement initiatives.

Continuous engagement leads the road to success 

Employee engagement initiatives have to be a continuous process. This demands continuous interaction of the key stakeholder with the employees. Organizations have to facilitate two-way conversations between employees and those involved (such as mentors and coaches) and create channels that allow the invested parties to converse, listen, and proactively manage progress and enable employees where work happens. 

Such an approach also ensures that feedback does not become restricted to the end of the engagement initiative and becomes more continuous in its approach. 

This continuous feedback loop gives employees the platform to address any issues that they face while participating in these programs, thereby allowing the organization to fine-tune and hone their initiatives to suit the needs of their demographic. 

Additionally, organizations also have to become more analytics-driven and employ technologies such as AI and Machine Learning to power interactions in employee engagement strategies and make them more relevant and meaningful and hence more impactful.

What about power skills?

Companies have been hyper-focused on improving the technical skills of their workforce because of the changing nature of work itself. However, organizations are also waking up to the rising importance of recharging the power skills of their employees to remain competitive in a world that thrives on collaboration and change.

However, power skill development cannot be ascertained with day-long training programs. Given these skills are behavioral, they have to be reaffirmed continuously to ensure that they become a part of an employee’s second nature. The journey to progress here comes from leveraging robust mentoring sessions that are focused, contextual, personalized, and continuous. 

Identifying the power skill needs of the workforce by leveraging skill assessment tests helps organizations design clear paths for their employees to hone and improve their skill sets. This, in turn, delivers transformational value to the organization as these skills impact how teams work and collaborate. 

In conclusion 

If you want your organization’s employee engagement strategy to drive consistent and multi-touch interactions, you can leverage the NumlyEngage™ platform. With NumlyEngage™, you can take a structured approach to skill development by using consistent and multi-touch interactions, that are continuously scaled and nurtured by AI. 

You also gain access to a rich catalog of 185+ soft skills, with 12+ new pre-packaged Engagement Program Templates targeting various departments and audience segments while addressing their key enterprise functions and disciplines. The platform employs built-in customizable processes to assist organizations get started on specific skill sets by quickly and effectively defining a unique and personalized set of Coaches and Jedi within the organization. It is designed to help organizations take their employee engagement, performance and productivity initiatives to the next level.

If this has piqued your interest, let’s connect to see how we can power up your organization’s employee engagement initiatives. Reach out at numlyengage-support@numly.io to schedule a Demo today!