What Employees Want from Leaders Today

“I’m working harder than ever through Covid-19. It is exhausting dealing with everyone’s personal and professional issues. It feels like we must be all things to all people.”

Sound familiar? This year, leaders have not only had to deal with, respond to, and lead amidst constant change, but have had to lean heavily upon their emotional intelligence to guide and support their teams through every step of this unprecedented year. Research has found that employees have very few — but nonetheless, critical — expectations from their leaders; this has not changed too much in 2020. We all tend to want the same things from our work experience, regardless of position or demographics.

Let’s take a look.

To be kept informed. Communication is clearly a leader’s top priority. No one likes to be kept in the dark. During this period of great change, there has been so much we collectively do not know that it makes communicating what we do know even more important. An employee’s ability to cope with change is directly proportional to a leader’s ability to communicate and support them through the change process. Keeping employees in the loop — even if it is just to say, “There is no new information at this time” — is fundamental to being a successful leader.

To be involved. Asking for input/ideas from employees is a tried-and-true success formula. And yet, so many times we rush to make decisions and overlook this important stage, leaving staff to feel left out of the decision-making process. Unfortunately, due to the speed at which leaders have had to respond during 2020, there has not been a lot of time to ask for feedback prior to making a decision. While not all decisions can be shared due to time restrictions or confidentiality, engaging employees in those areas where shared decision-making makes sense and where building the decision/solution from the ground up adds tremendous value — even this year.

To be recognized. Recognition and positive reinforcement are highly valued and appreciated by all. Leaders who make a habit of sincere recognition in both formal and informal ways not only help create a positive success culture, but also serve their own purposes by turning the recognized employees into role models for others to emulate. Throughout this year, because so many teams are working remotely, giving praise and positive reinforcement by walking around has been harder to do and therefore leaders are coming up with new ways to give feedback either by phone or on online platforms. With so much uncertainty this year, this is another way leaders can keep their employees feeling appreciated. Try making a concerted effort to recognize top performers.

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To have opportunities to learn and grow. While not all positions have clear upward mobility options, there are always ways to offer individual learning opportunities. There are numerous ways to enhance learning opportunities — something to meet everyone’s talent budget, such as job shadowing, online education resources, industry association involvement and lunch and learn events. Sometimes just having the opportunity to hear from and connect with subject-matter experts, tenured employers or senior team members will fill this gap.

To feel connected to our work. Creating connection with employees through building strong relationships with them, through shared values or through sharing a united purpose/mission are all examples of why employees come to work and why they stay. Employees who feel their work is a second home and refer to teammates as family are highly motivated to stay and perform well. Creating connection during Covid-19 has been challenging due to change in physical work locations and new technologies being deployed, however leaders are also finding that working through both personal and professional issues together in 2020, has created the opportunity for an even deeper connection.

Any leader looking to improve overall engagement, even in a challenging year, does not have to look any further than delivering on these five basic requirements. None of these need to cost much, and all can be delivered in any business cycle, in any private enterprise, or in any public organization, and they are guaranteed to produce results.

When developing your communication narrative, remember to address these five key areas. By doing this you will reinforce your commitment to delivering on these fundamental employee wants.

Sandra Hokansson

Sandra Hokansson
Sandi Hokansson is a certified executive-level coach and principal of SoundLeadership. Reach her at sandi (at) soundleadership (dot) ca.

Sandra Hokansson

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