Employee-leadership connect: Key to higher retention and productivity | HCLTech

Employee-leadership connect: Key to higher retention and productivity

September 19, 2022
Saanvari Malhotra


Saanvari Malhotra
General Manager, Digital Process Operations
September 19, 2022

Nearly 57 million people resigned from their jobs in the US alone from January 2021 to February 2022. The phenomenon, as you must be aware of, has been termed the great resignation. Unfortunately, it’s not over yet. As of March 2022, more than 40% of workers in the country were considering quitting their jobs this year. It was/is not a mass resignation conspiracy; because it is simply not possible to mobilize so many sensible adults across industries and states into taking a specific action. Especially, when that action could potentially leave them with no income, that too at a time when the world was still recuperating from the unprecedented shift in the modus operandi of everything.

Research found that inadequate salary, poor growth opportunities, and lack of respect were some of the major reasons driving the great resignation. However, the fact that this happened during a period of turmoil and uncertainty indicates that there must have been an undercurrent.

What drove the great resignation, and its impact?

Relationship and connectedness is one of the major determinants of job satisfaction for majority of employees.  In fact, more than 75% of people take that into account when considering a new job. Salary was but eight on their list of job satisfaction. This means material gains don’t supersede human connection for most people in the long run. Employees who have their best friends working in the same organization have been found to be seven times more engaged in their work and deliver better quality output. In fact, the chances of employees feeling fulfilled in their lives is bleak if their workplace is devoid of meaningful relationship.

Employee-leadership connect is not about launching program after program based on employee behavior data; it is about heeding the uniqueness of your organization, reaching out to employees on a personal level, and inculcating a sense of belonging.

There’s ample evidence establishing that human relationships are among the most important factors, if not the most important factor, of employee satisfaction at work. And generally speaking, satisfied employees are more productive and less likely to switch to another employer. This brings us to employee-leadership connection, which can be argued to be, by far, the most crucial of all workplace relationships. If employees are not inspired and motivated by the leadership, the same ought to reflect on their performance.

(Re)building the employee-leadership connection

Considering the sweeping change brought by the pandemic, rebuilding the company culture has become imperative for enterprise leaders. Due to the distant working model, employees get more quickly anxious about their evolving priorities, new policies, growth prospects, and job security. And, whom do we talk our hearts out to in such situations? Our friends. Leaders need to become the same for employees without shattering the professional boundaries.

Making it easier and reassuring for workers to reach out to the leadership with grievances, concerns, and ideas goes a long way in building employee-leader friendship within professional folds. When workers know that leaders will listen with intent, they not only open up but also feel valued. This leaves a tremendous impact on their psyche and, in turn, makes them more invested. Humanizing by sharing experiences is also an effective way to earn employee confidence. It also plays a crucial role in making them feel that they’re not alone facing all sorts of problems; even their top bosses have their own set of real, tangible challenges. This, in turn, makes workers more closely relate to those above them in the organizational hierarchy.

Alongside building connection, relatability, and positivity, keeping a tab on the use of social media and virtual communication channels is also critical in this regard. Cultural misunderstanding is more likely to occur and blow out of proportion in the virtual world than when employees work under the same roof. In today’s dispersed work environment, spreading organization-wide awareness about the culture of each employee group is crucial to pre-empt misunderstandings. This not only fosters a deeper connection between employees but also makes each group equally valued and understood.

Heeding the not-so-obvious

Feelings are an internal affair while our behavior is external. How we behave is usually an effect of how we feel, not necessarily an expression of how we feel. But most employee engagement initiatives are based on the studies conducted on employee behavior. How can what’s external guide our strategies to deal with what’s internal? Indeed, we’re so focused on being data-driven that we tend to forget to ignore the distinction between internal and external, between feeling and behavior. We forget that every organization has a different set of people it calls its employees. In the post-pandemic world, especially after the-great-resignation alarm, enterprise leaders must heed the subjectivity that their roles entail. Employee-leadership connect is not about launching program after program based on employee engagement data; it is about heeding the uniqueness of your organization, reaching out to employees on a personal level, and inculcating a sense of belonging.

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