3 Ways CEOs Can Create a More Resilient Workforce
In a recent global survey, chief executives named attracting and retaining the right talent as their top challenge for 2023. That’s no surprise given the massive changes in the workforce over the past few years. CEOs know business success depends on having the right people in place to execute on strategy, but trends that emerged in the aftermath of the pandemic threaten workforce resilience, which puts short- and long-term plans at risk.
Despite multiple layoffs at high-profile companies, lack of purpose, increased burnout and continuously evolving employee expectations are driving attrition rates sky high for many employers. The result? Leaders are looking for answers about how to ensure their high-performing workforce is resilient enough to weather the instability of what may be a difficult economy through the rest of the year.
To create a more resilient workforce, CEOs need to understand how the employee-employer relationship has changed and adjust their leadership approach to accommodate a modern workforce’s expectations. Here are three steps to strengthen workforce resilience, increase long-term stability and balance the demands of employees and the organization in an uncertain economy:
The Employee-Employer Relationship: Redefined
Employees’ priorities and values have shifted, we all watched the rise of trends like the “Great Resignation,” “quiet quitting” and “bare-minimum Mondays.” The TikTok videos driving these trends may seem like a fad, but fundamentally, the stories they’re telling aren’t new and aren’t going anywhere. Workers demanding more support from their employers and increased recognition for their contributions aren’t making unreasonable requests.
Most of us put in more time on the job than we spend with our families or on personal activities we enjoy. That’s fine for those of us who find our work fulfilling and have a support system at home, but assuming everyone else is in the same situation is privileged thinking. The fact is the last few years have been grueling for many in the workplace.
This is why employees are reassessing the role work plays in their lives and requiring their employers to evolve with them. Some leaders are pushing back and trying to reassert traditional frameworks, but those still clinging to yesterday’s methods for hiring, engaging and retaining employees—and believing we’re still in a temporary period of volatility that will pass—are in for a rude awakening. The leaders that redefine the employee-employer relationship with empathy and recognize their talent as their most valuable asset are the ones who will flourish.
Of course, CEOs are dealing with economic uncertainty and burnout from the past few years too. No one knows if we’re heading into a recession or if we can reasonably expect a softer landing. We are left to determine how to stay profitable without losing the valuable team members needed to execute corporate growth plans. But as CEOs, we must find a balance that works for the company and the workforce.
Leadership in Tumultuous Times
Unsurprisingly, the most important leadership trait during uncertain times is flexibility. You have to be willing to adjust your views and leadership approach to fit the current needs of the company and workforce. For me, this meant evolving as a leader on the return to office and remote work debate, after years of being a strong proponent for in-office work.
I loved the collaboration and problem solving that used to take place exclusively in the office. But while I still enjoy those interactions when they occur, I’m now 100% in favor of the remote work experience and “Work in any Way” culture we’ve constructed for our teams. Leaders who want to improve resilience in their workforce should consider tactics that incorporate remote work and maximize flexibility, like giving employees more freedom to define their schedules, providing job sharing and gig employment opportunities and embracing location-agnostic hiring.
I’ve seen firsthand how employees bring their best selves to work when they leave the commute behind and have breakfast with their families or go for a run in the middle of the day. When people engage in activities that recharge their mind and spirit, they bring a happier and healthier version of themselves to their jobs. There are multiple generations in the workforce now and generational differences in how people want to work, but across the board, more flexibility is proving to be something they all agree is needed for them to thrive in their work experience.
Everyone wants more opportunities and respect. Employees who quit their jobs cite low pay as their top reason, but a plurality also report the lack of growth opportunities and feeling disrespected at work as contributing factors. Leadership can make a huge difference here by understanding the gaps in their own leadership style, being open to demonstrating vulnerability and knowing how people respond to different approaches.
Greater resilience is also achieved by building trust. Organizations can lay the groundwork by examining leadership and communication styles to ensure their current practices are suited to managing organizational change. Proactive communication and transparency on business decisions whenever feasible can help create trust and give stakeholders, including employees, a sense of security. Though leaders may not be able to share everything, it’s a best practice today to share as much as you can.
Giving Employees a Reason to Stay
Model the type of leadership you want to see your team provide to their people. Walking the talk is a major part of how CEOs can build a positive, productive culture and high-performance organization. So is listening to employees, because in addition to flexibility, opportunity and respect, employees want to be heard.
Soliciting employee feedback is a crucial component for retention. At Safeguard Global, we hold quarterly forums to meet with team members across all departments and regions worldwide and collect insight for the HR and executive leadership teams. As a result, we’ve been able to offer upskilling opportunities and deploy mentorship programs that directly address the desires and needs of our individual team members.
Employees want flexibility, clear opportunities for growth and respect, and giving employees what they want is a sign of strength, not a capitulation. Reimagining the employee-employer relationship to offer employees more support and control over their work experience gives employees a reason to stay. And adapting your leadership and communication style to build trust and expand transparency encourages psychological safety. Companies that hire workers anywhere, and support them everywhere, gain a competitive advantage over peers that are still following the old school models — and build a more resilient workforce at the same time.
Written by Bjorn Reynolds.
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