Knowing Where, Who, and Why Makes the Difference
Are your getting what you want from your role?
In the past year of the pandemic, the lines between work and personal time have blurred. We are now working 47 minutes longer each day and have more meetings than we did when we worked together in an office setting (1). Our work is more of who we are now than ever. But is it worth it to you?
In working with clients, we found that employees feel the greatest sense of stress in trying to find what they need from their work (right behind managing their mental health). Plus, people felt the stress was more harmful than in the past, that it would last longer, and it was becoming more difficult to cope.
A study by Harvard Business Review reported that 89% of employee feel their work life was getting worse, with 62% of people feeling the drag of being burned out. And Millennials are feeling the highest level of impact of the cohorts in the workforce.
Our work brings meaning to our lives and provides a way for us to do something that matters. How do we ensure we do not lose that feeling of contributing to make a difference?
To bring our best to our work, our commitment and engagement, we need two things from leaders. We need a working environment that supports us to bring our unique talents and identity. And we need to understand the purpose of the organization or business, so we know how to apply our attention and effort. We need to know what the company does, for who, and why it matters. With that clarity, we know what leaders need from us, and can focus our efforts on making a difference.
One of the keys to resilience, in responding proactively to adversity, is knowing what is important to bring the confidence that I have the competencies needed to add value. For leaders, being clear about what the organization is doing, why, and where it is going is critical to supporting the productivity and well-being of employees.
It all makes sense. It is about communication. Tell us where we are going, what is important, and then we can understand how to contribute. Nice.
Our surveying of Atlantic Canadian leaders shows they get it. They rated their leadership effectiveness at 76.2% with a clear strength in focused and deliberate actions and promoting positive and supportive relationships in the workplace. Over the pandemic, leaders have been empathetic and authentic, although they recognize one area where they need to improve – communication.
In fact, communicating a clear and compelling message of direction is the lowest ranked leadership ability. And employees agree. From our data with employees in Atlantic Canada, the understanding of the strategy of the organization was 65.4%, with the feeling of readiness to move forward at 64.4%. We are a solid C.
And employees reported not feeling included in conversations about the future. At the beginning of the pandemic, leaders were talking to everyone and people felt the energy. But something happened over the summer months and has now fallen back to old ways – leaders tend to talk mainly to their senior teams and their external peers. So, they are hearing the same people and the same people. And employees are feeling lost in translation.
There is a surprising trend growing of employees leaving for new jobs. They are looking for a role that can bring them a feeling of getting what they want from their work.
Leaders need to step back, ask questions, listen, and communicate. We need to hear what is important, what direction we are setting, so we can figure out our work contributes to the core priorities and the customer, and we can gain confidence in bringing our best and getting more from our role. We will bring innovative ideas and see our future ahead.
Interesting, leaders felt the most confident in their capacity to influence productivity, at 67%, although they seem more focused on creating a collegial environment than talking about direction. Being nice is, well, nice, but having a purpose is priceless.
In one action, leaders can help reduce stress, enhance meaning, and improve performance for employees. Communicating a clear and consistent message about where we are heading helps us gain more from our work, and inspires us with energy, rather than leaving us anxious and drained. And having a conversation outside the boardroom with other people would not hurt either.
Back to the beginning, are you getting what you need from your work? Ask questions to understand the purpose, the direction, and the priorities, so you can find the path to contributing your talents in a meaningful way.