According to a recent McKinsey poll, the top three factors employees cited as reasons for quitting were: 1) They didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54 percent), 2) they didn’t feel valued by their managers (52 percent), and 3) they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51 percent).
Now that work-at-home is here to stay, leaders at all levels are going to have to re-engineer how they lead. Some companies are developing a plan on how to build and sustain a hybrid environment that works for both employees and the company. Either way, new strategies are needed that will help employees feel listened to and that their ideas are valid. Employees want to belong and to believe that their contribution to the company is valuable. When leaders can do this, there can be a change in culture and a chain reaction of successes that can help validate employees, give them a sense of belonging, and help companies reach their goals.
One of the ways to validate and help employees feel they are contributing to the success of the company is by giving employees visibility. This is done completely differently in a remote environment than in a traditional brick-and-mortar environment.
There’s a lot of competition for front-line employees, supervisors, and middle managers to move up the ladder to where they will have more influence on how the company is driven. Promotion decisions are not made in a vacuum. They are usually made with input from multiple people and, in some cases, even multiple departments. One strategy to help validate and ultimately retain an employee is to help that employee move up in the organization by utilizing a leadership strategy of “managing up.” This is when you showcase that team member to a person up the corporate ladder from you, a colleague, a different department head, or a group of people. It doesn’t have to be a major announcement, just mentioning their name and what they did to contribute. To complete the strategy, make sure to mention to the team member you are helping that you mentioned them to someone “upstairs,” the “VP,” or “Maggie in human resources.” This gives your employee visibility and validates their idea. The employee will probably mention the exchange to another colleague, which will spur appreciation, engagement, and validation.
Be someone’s crusader. Invite them to a meeting one level up from where they currently are on the corporate ladder. This is easy to accomplish in a work-at-home environment. Plan ahead so this person understands what is going to happen. You can invite them in through a link in a chat at the precise moment you need them to join the meeting. Mention to the attendees in the virtual meeting that “Mary is going to assist for a few minutes.” Once Mary is in the virtual meeting, she can talk about a topic or a slide. You can ask her opinion on how her colleagues are feeling about a particular subject. This is Mary’s time to contribute. Let others ask Mary questions, and then thank Mary for her help before she logs off.
This adds depth to what you are presenting, showcases your leadership style, and gives Mary visibility, which shows how you value her and how she is contributing to the company. Mary will be grateful and tell her colleagues, who will be excited for her.
Other leaders that were in the virtual meeting will hopefully follow your example, and a new strategy will have been incorporated that engages people in your organization, validates their value, and gives them a sense of belonging. When people feel this way, they will have less reason to quit.
Manage Sideways with Project Management
Fellow colleagues are always sharing new ideas. Whether in a focus group or a supervisor, middle management, or senior leadership meeting, you can help a colleague to feel valued by asking them to help with a project strategy. Another approach is to choose someone that you would not normally ask to collaborate with.
Work on the project together, and give them specific acknowledgment as you both are presenting. You can give them credit for a particular slide, for the analytics in the graph, or even the illustration on the slide if it’s really creative. This gives your colleague, who may have a different skill set, more visibility, while at the same time showcasing your leadership skills. This can give a sense of belonging and validation to both. Sometimes, in companies where backbiting is the norm, you may feel you are taking a risk by having someone help you with a project. If that’s the case, pick someone that perhaps isn’t as outgoing as you or someone with an entirely different skill set. You can also pick someone from another department. These collaborative projects help to engage and validate people while helping them to feel a sense of belonging at the organization.
Looking in the Leadership Mirror
As the business climate continues to change and the work-at-home and hybrid environments continue to evolve, developing new strategies and leadership skills is critical for moving an organization forward. Leaders that are introspective and take the opportunity to learn and demonstrate new skills and strategies will continue to grow personally and professionally. These evolving leaders can engage and validate their colleagues and employees at all levels, whether above, beside, or below them on the organizational corporate ladder. This also drives engagement, and employees within the organization can feel a sense of belonging. When this happens, you can create a culture that thrives in the work-at-home and hybrid environments and curb employee attrition.