In 2017 Gallup Inc. published its report State of the Global Workplace, and the findings were downright dismal: Only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs, 67% are not engaged, and 18% have actively disengaged from their work.
More specifically, disengaged workers often lack a sense of trust and respect for their organisational leaders, noted Michael Bush, author of A Great Place to Work for All and CEO of Great Place to Work, an Oakland, Calif.-based global people analytics and consulting firm. “Trust is respect, credibility, and fairness,” he said. “If somebody is not being treated fairly, they don’t feel respected. Most people are working in a low-trust environment.”
The burden to fix these problems ultimately falls onto organisational managers or principals. Trouble is, creating trustworthy and supportive workplace environments doesn’t come naturally to most managers, and many make errors without realising it.
“A common mistake they make is that they are purely driven by hard metrics,” said Fredrik Lyhagen, a consultant and executive coach at leadership consultancy Oxford Leadership in Prague. So they focus on the financials, processes, and strategies — and the softer side of cultivating relationships with employees falls low on their priority list.
So are you trusted and respected by your employees? And how can you create an environment of trust, respect, and security, to maximise worker engagement? Bush and Lyhagen offer the following additional tips:
Know yourself. The first step is to understand and assess yourself and your behaviours. What impact do you have on people? How do you act around others? “Understand how your leadership affects the experience of the people who work for you,” Bush said. He suggested surveying employees, ideally by hiring an outside and impartial survey company. Once you receive the results, work on two or three behaviours that will create a better environment for your staff. If necessary, get the assistance of a coach or human resources partner during the process, he advised.
Be authentic. During your lifetime you likely made good, personal friends because you shared moments of vulnerability. These bonds can also be made at work by simply being human. As a manager, it’s OK if you make mistakes, and it’s fine to admit you made them, “because that allows other people to realise that it’s OK”, Lyhagen said. Employees need to feel safe, not fearful of the manager’s reprimands.
Be aware of your actions. Are you building, maintaining, or eroding trust during your interactions with employees? “When you speak with someone in a harsh or disrespectful way, you are eroding trust. When you always recognise the same three people, you are eroding trust,” Bush said. Be conscious of how your actions impact your staff, and ensure you are furthering or preserving trust with every interaction.
Some managers also don’t listen well, “in a way that makes people feel respected”, Bush said. Good managers “connect the work that [employees] do to the overall purpose of the organisation. They give them feedback and recognise them and reward them for their work,” he noted.
Engage employees. You may view your analyst as the person who runs the reports or your sales representative as the one who closes the deals, but that’s a fraction of who they are. Get to know your employees as individuals and concentrate on your soft skills. Bush advocates frequent and planned (at least every other week) communication with workers. In addition, pose questions and listen. “This is a person who has dreams and aspirations,” Lyhagen noted. Ask yourself, “How can I tap into their full potential? How can I enable them to feel more fulfilled and within that give more towards what the company is trying to achieve?” he said. “Leadership is essentially about relationships, and relationships are about the conversation.”
— Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.