As leaders, we should be tackling the problem head-on, and focusing on caring, focusing on feelings, and understanding more, and taking action on those things, so we can reduce the effects of burnout and mental health strain that have become so alarmingly widespread and prevalent amongst employees worldwide, in every industry.
If leaders fail to act, their organizations wind up with people who care less. And guess what – caring for one’s work is a driver of positive business results. Because when people care, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when customer delight happens, when innovation happens, and when the business thrives.
Overlook Peoples’ Feelings at Your Own Risk
However, caring is a two-way street. People’s feelings matter, and if it becomes clear to employees that the organization doesn’t care for them on a human level, it compels them to care less about their work.
Many leaders are uncomfortable when it comes to employee feelings. Or, worse, they’re dismissive of how people feel, preferring to simply believe that employees are just in it for the money. When leaders fall into either of these traps, they are abandoning an opportunity to galvanize their employees and create the kind of workplace that people value – and more specifically, the kind of a workplace they don’t want to leave. This brings me to my next point: the Great Resignation. It’s in full effect, and the reasons are well documented. People aren’t leaving for a larger pay packet. They’re resigning from jobs that aren’t compatible with how they want to live their lives. According to the WSJ article, organisations have not been good at caring about their people and what they’ve experienced over the last year:
“Nearly 90% of workers said they’d experienced burnout over the past year, according to a summer survey from people analytics firm Visier. More than half said their workloads had increased during the pandemic.
Some companies say they care, but does any CEO actually want employees to be less obsessed with work?”
And here is the crux of the matter. If an organisation’s business model relies upon the assumption that its employees will tolerate onerous requirements, such as forced overtime and higher workloads, well, that organisation is probably reaping what they’ve sown at this very moment. Collectively and nearly globally, employees have decided they’re not going to take it anymore.
Caring for People Is a Necessity
If an organisation is to thrive, caring for employees is a necessity. What does “caring” mean in a corporate context? In short, it means listening to employee feedback and responding. The WSJ article gave a great example of exactly this: one organisation had mandated “meeting-free Fridays” to provide people with focus time and combat Zoom fatigue. Workers there told executives that the meeting-free Fridays were nice, but relaxing deadlines and putting more people or technology on projects would help them more. An organization’s existing staff are their cultural cornerstones, upon which they can build their future – if they can quickly understand staff needs, and just as swiftly use that feedback to close any glaring holes and align leadership on what they want people to feel as members of their team. To do this, I walked the group through our simple People Charter exercise, which comprises:
1) Asking the leadership team to list how they want their people to feel
2) Prioritising resulting list, and selecting six to 12 of those statements, turning them into your organisation’s People Charter
3) Share the People Charter with your staff
4) Survey to staff using the People Charter statements, in order to find out the truth of how people are feeling.
The reaction to this has been incredible – it was as though leaders have been handed a key. And, indeed, it is a key of sorts – a key to rapidly understanding what your people value, and how your organisation can better meet their needs. And by the way, when you undertake this sort of exercise and use the truth of how employees feel to make changes, you demonstrate that the organisation cares about how people feel.
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