Anyone who says being a leader is easy is simply not being honest. Leadership is hard. Yes, I said it. And that shouldn’t shock anyone. After all, modern managers are expected to be nearly super-human. They’re responsible for inspiring people, bringing out the best in their teams, and getting positive results. And naturally, they play a crucial role in shaping the employee experience.
Effective leaders create a positive work culture that fosters engagement, enhances job satisfaction, and increases productivity. Innovative work processes and technology can help. But the most influential leaders rely on more than KPIs, annual performance reviews, and cool digital tools to shape individual and organizational success.
Instead, these enlightened leaders put wellbeing and productivity at the center of their employee experience strategy. All of this sounds good, doesn’t it? But it is much easier said than done.
This article challenges leaders to focus on five factors that drive employee experience in today’s complex work environment:
To uncover areas for improvement, consider these questions…
1. Do Employees Feel Empowered as Individuals and Part of a Team?
For any organization, balancing individuality and teamwork is a delicate art. Do you provide an environment where employees feel free to express themselves openly and authentically, as members of a cohesive, supportive team?
Aim for a Sense of Belonging
The desire to feel connected with others is part of the human condition. In childhood, we begin to fulfill this need by forging relationships with family members and groups of friends who accept us for who we are.
Similarly, at work, a sense of belonging develops when we feel free to show up and contribute as ourselves. In fact, extensive research reveals a strong relationship between authenticity, psychological safety, trust, and a sense of belonging. By behaving openly and authentically, you give peers and team members unspoken permission to do the same. What’s more, by letting go of unnatural roles, everyone has more energy to focus on what really matters.
Breed Trust Through Authenticity
As a leader, you can set a powerful example for others by sharing your own personal and professional setbacks and successes. This lays the foundation for a more genuine, relatable team atmosphere. Employees who see their leaders as real people with strengths, weaknesses, and a desire to learn, they’re more likely to open up, collaborate, and take calculated risks. Ultimately, this can drive creativity, innovation, and growth.
2. Do People See Purpose in Their Work?
How well do employees understand the significance of their efforts? When people understand how their jobs support an organization’s broader mission, they become more motivated, engaged, and committed to their work.
Connect Tasks With Meaning
We’ve all had moments of reckoning at work when we suddenly wonder, “Why am I doing this? Why does this matter?” Don’t wait for this to happen to your employees.
When assigning projects or responsibilities, you have a unique opportunity to share meaningful context. Don’t hesitate to underscore the impact you believe your team members will have on your department, your organization, your customers, or the community at large.
Frame Work as a Fulfilling Endeavor
We all want our efforts to mean something. In fact, research confirms that when employees understand how their daily efforts fit into the bigger picture, they’re more motivated and fulfilled.
Speaking to the value employees bring to the table can deepen their commitment to their job, their team, and the organization as a whole. So, remember to regularly remind people about their significance and acknowledge their contributions.
3. Do You Make Recognition Integral to Work Life?
Celebrating employee contributions strengthens their connection to the organization. Ultimately, this leads to better performance, higher profits, and stronger retention rates. How well do you respond to this need?
Acknowledge Excellence and Effort
Recognition is a core pillar of employee experience. That’s why you’ll want to acknowledge team members on a regular basis.
We all crave validation, but every situation is unique. So take time to think about the most effective approach. Some public acknowledgments resonate for some people, while others prefer a personal note or private 1-on-1 conversation.
Acknowledging excellence boosts morale, builds engagement, and reinforces a sense of value. So don’t hesitate to share a simple “thank you” or reward people formally through a recognition program,
Encourage Everyone to Participate
At WorkRamp, we’ve created a #Props Slack dedicated to employee recognition. We encourage all employees to use this space to express gratitude, brag about team members, share accomplishments, and celebrate work wins. It’s one of our most popular Slack channels, and team members of all levels regularly contribute.
4. Is Your Environment Positive and Inclusive?
Company culture directly affects employee employee wellbeing and productivity. A supportive, collaborative workplace attracts and retains top talent, motivates people to excel, drives job satisfaction, and leads to organizational success. How can you build a better culture?
A positive culture helps employees feel comfortable and supported, which boosts job satisfaction and wellbeing. As a leader, you can set the tone for this kind of environment. To move the meter, you’ll want to embrace change, champion open communication, and ensure fairness whenever possible.
Promote Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance can be elusive, especially these days, when more employees are working remotely or in a hybrid mode. However, by helping team members balance personal and professional priorities, you can help employees gain a stronger sense of wellbeing.
There are multiple ways to encourage self-care. For example, you can remind people to take breaks, use their vacation time, and unplug during off hours. By supporting healthier habits, you can help team members become more focused, motivated, engaged, and productive teams.
Prioritize Diversity and Inclusion
Promoting workplace diversity and inclusion is not just a moral imperative — it’s a strategic advantage. Embracing diverse perspectives and backgrounds enhances employee engagement. It also fosters creativity, problem-solving, and innovation, all of which can lead to better business outcomes.
By building a diverse environment where all voices are heard, you can avoid bias and foster a more inclusive workplace where employees feel valued and respected. Organizations that excel at this tend to attract and retain talent much more effectively than their counterparts.
5. Are You Committed to Employee Career Goals?
Do you emphasize employee growth? Research consistently shows that employees prefer to work with employers that invest in their future by offering professional development opportunities. This boosts employee morale and job satisfaction. At the same time, it means employers have a more skilled, motivated workforce, with people who are prepared to contribute to the organization’s future success.
Commit to Ongoing Growth
When you actively help team members work towards their professional goals by providing continuous learning and growth opportunities, you can expect to see improved morale, satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.
These opportunities can take various forms. Initiate regular conversations to understand each team member’s aspirations. Then work with them on an ongoing basis to identify relevant educational paths, stretch assignments, cross-skilling and upskilling opportunities, and mentoring relationships that will enrich their daily work lives and expand their capabilities portfolio.
Employee Experience: A Top-Down Imperative
No doubt about it. Leaders have a direct impact on employee experience — for better or worse.
If you have a leadership role, you can help improve your organization’s culture. It won’t happen overnight. But by focusing on building an environment of authenticity, purpose, recognition, inclusion, and career growth, you can help team members feel more valued, fulfilled, and engaged. And over time, with a consistent commitment to these elements, your organization can improve productivity, retention, and overall organizational success.
It’s not easy. But I assure you, it is worth the effort.