In a pre-COVID-19 world, 59% of those surveyed by a global training firms expressed a high degree of trust that their leaders took their well-being seriously.
Now, more than 70% of employees express confidence that their well-being is taken seriously, according to GP Strategies, which is based in Columbia, Maryland, and focuses on organizational and leadership development..
Many organizations are taking a conservative position on a return-to-office policy or a “ready when you are” approach and letting employees determine their level of comfort, GP Strategies said in a September research report.
“Trust is an essential element of a strong leader-employee relationship; with trust, employees are willing to go above and beyond for their leaders,” says Leah Clark, the GP Strategies executive who wrote the report.
The company received nearly 950 online responses between July 1 and Aug. 17, including 590 from first-level, senior or executive leaders.
Titled “Business as Un-usual: Rewriting the Rules of Leadership,” the report portrays some disparities in perceptions among employees and leaders.
While 46% of employees indicated they have shared concerns with managers regarding economic uncertainties, only 26% of leaders feel strongly that they are totally prepared to lead through the uncertainties.
“Many employees are in almost impossible situations – fighting to hang onto their jobs during a time of economic volatility while simultaneously struggling to do that job, take care of home-bound children and elderly family members, or simply maintain a routine that feels normal,” the report said.
Among leaders, 65% say their staff have been productive working from home while 70% of employees say they have been productive.
Less than half of leaders responding, 47%, were feeling resilient or confident they will make it through this crisis, while 61% of employees expressed confidence in their leader's ability to navigate the team through challenges.
During the early days of the pandemic, GP Strategies said anxiety was high and many people indicated what they most needed from leaders was empathy. When asked what's needed to increase engagement, responses from leaders and employees varied there, too, when it comes to weight.
Top picks for leaders: direction (50%), support (36%), connection (35%) and empathy (31%). Top responses from employees on what is most needed: direction (35%) support (32%); connection (27%) and empathy (23%) – tied with the same percentage for trust.
A one-size-fits-all approach won't work, the report said. Leaders must take time to understand and address what each employee needs to help them cope while still reminding them of organizational goals and shared purpose.
Leaders should express empathy by trying to envision themselves in the shoes of employees – people who are parents, caregivers and providers. Ask how employees are doing and how you can help, the report suggests.
Listening is another must. “The time spent listening to your employees is not only what they may need personally, but will also provide insight into what they need from you to stay engaged and productive,” the report said. And don't forget to clear hurdles, whether considering modified work schedules, shifting priorities or access to technology that can allow employees to be more effective, more productive and feel satisfied.
Fort Wayne native Scott Abbott recently launched a business podcast, Moments to Momentum, and released a second edition of his book “Level-Up to Professional.”
The podcast features guests, mostly who live and work in Indiana, who discuss their career paths and the moment that led them to significant change or growth, a Thursday email about his initiatives said. The book offers professional and life advice – “things that aren't traditionally taught in school” – catering primarily to young people and new workers.
Abbott, based in Carmel, is CEO of Straticos.
Information about the podcast is available at momentstomomentum.com.