Cofounder and Managing Director Ignium Consulting
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Leadership: how to maintain employee engagement during a time of change

During times of change in a business there can be many conflicting priorities, but one of the most important things for leaders to focus on is ensuring employees are engaged. Without this, the enterprise is sure to fail. 

21st Oct 2019
Cofounder and Managing Director Ignium Consulting
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Engagement with the workforce is fundamental to business performance.  Everyone knows that, right?

We’re in an age where there is a distinct lack of trust of corporations, business leaders, and, of course, politicians. It’s an age where everything is changing, all of the time. Faith and belief are at an all-time low.

As leaders, we need to engage with our employees in a more effective, continuous and genuine way than ever before.

In times like these, it is critical that businesses (and their leaders) focus on building and maintaining employee engagement if they are to maximise the value growth of their businesses.  

Businesses need to remember to communicate. Unsuccessful companies often focus only on the ‘what’ behind the change. Successful businesses communicate both the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’

Engaged workforce

Employee engagement is vital to business longevity and ultimately success, as is having an effective company culture that adapts to change and continually evolves with the business and its people.

Keeping an engaged workforce is tough. Trying to keep everyone focused and pulling in the right direction is a hard job for any business leader, especially in the current political and economic environment.

As leaders, we need to engage with our employees in a more effective, continuous and genuine way than ever before.

We need to give them a voice, the ability to listen (wherever they are) and empower them. This is especially the case during times of change.

Coping with change

A good friend of mine, Jenni Emery, has recently written a book called Leading for Organisational Change – Building Purpose, Motivation and Belonging.  

In this book she centres her approach to leading for organisational change on purpose, values and story telling and creation.  

She believes that by doing so, organisations will improve in the following ways:

  • Gaining an ability to build their belonging
  • Taking an evolutionary approach to strategy setting
  • Building confidence
  • Developing agility and understanding
  • Creating simplicity
  • Fostering energy

Unfortunately, during times of change, few organisations get this right.  

Typical barriers are that leaders think they should know all the answers, and if they don’t, they fear others will see them as weak or lacking direction.

Some leaders think they will have to ‘re-invent the wheel’ to improve engagement. Some think it takes too much time, while others simply don’t realise its importance or have competing priorities that are usually financially driven, such as sales or revenue targets.  

What they don’t understand is that investing in employee engagement can actually improve productivity, reduce cost through enhanced efficiencies, increase profit and the ultimate value of the business.

Employee empowerment

What the more insightful business leaders appreciate is that sustainable business growth relies on engaged employees, willing to go the extra mile for their organisations as they are committed to their employer’s purpose and values.

In turn, this helps them to feel empowered to make a real difference. When employees are kept in the loop they become vital partners in helping a business survive and thrive.

Communications are key but at the right level. If senior leaders bombard the workforce with endless and lengthy messages, it will feel more like propaganda than insight into the company’s goals and targets.

Communication is key

Savvy communicators will know that to engage employees they don’t need a protracted company meeting or three-page newsletter.

They need facts delivered in a consistent and easy to consume manner and they need to be kept up to date regularly on changes and successes.

A strategy needs to be delivered for not only deciphering what employees need to be told but also how to reach them.

They also don’t have to hear just from the CEO, a mix of communications from key members of staff will help to create a greater level of trust and transparency across the company.

While key stakeholders need to agree the strategy for change in the business, they also need to embrace the advice from their comms and HR people.

Effective strategy

A strategy needs to be delivered for not only deciphering what employees need to be told but also how to reach them, especially if the workforce is spread over multiple sites, possibly different territories, not forgetting that some maybe deskless or remote workers too.

As Bill Gates once famously said: “as we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”.

When creating engaging communications business leaders should:

  • Be strategic: don’t just jump into action without first pausing to make sure the information is as accurate as possible.
  • Be prepared: when businesses are prepared, they are in an excellent position to start getting information out to employees even if they don’t always have the exact answers. Employees need to trust the authority of their employers’ messaging, and not gather information from unreliable sources.
  • Be consistent: update the workforce regularly to ensure they consistently have the most up-to-date information.
  • Keep it simple: draft a simple message to employees that answers or addresses their most important questions. Leaders and internal comms’ top priority should be to produce factual, consistent, and practical messaging.

Interested in this topic? Read Change management: how to shift the behaviours and mindsets of your people.

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By NicP
27th Oct 2019 16:57

Great direction for leaders

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