3 ways leaders create great workplaces

July 3, 2015 Sarah Beckett

With trends such as mobile access, BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device), flextime, and telecommuting blurring the barrier between work and life, making work meaningful has never been more important. After all, work no longer defines our nine to five—it defines our 24/7.

And while organizations recognize the importance of employee satisfaction and retention, they often struggle to create engaging workplaces that meet their employees’ changing needs.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015, workplace culture and engagement were identified as the most important talent issues by more than 3,300 business and HR leaders across 106 countries. But they’re also tough issues to address: 47 percent of respondents admitted they were “not ready” or only “somewhat ready” to meet the need.

Some organizations are getting creative and rolling out unusual perks that include valet parking, bring-your-pet-to-work days, on-site massages, and gourmet snacks.

But according to the Great Place to Work Institute, fun perks may turn heads initially, but employees stay on for other reasons. The Institute, which is the research and consulting firm that compiles Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, says that employees are more inspired by a great workplace culture than, say, a Wii in the breakroom.

And a great workplace does more than generate warm fuzzies—it generates better financial returns. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), organizations on Fortune’s list of top workplaces realized annualized stock market returns of 11.8 percent between 1997 and 2003 compared with 6.04 percent for the S&P 500.

SHRM took a close look at some of these employer-of-choice lists—including the Fortune list and Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards—to identify some of the common themes that recurred among these top-ranked employers.

What they found was that trust and engagement topped the list. Espresso machines and ergonomic chairs may make the workplace a nicer place to be, but employees are far more inspired by strong sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves and making a valuable—and valued—contribution to its success.

To create that powerful bond, employees need to trust their leaders to make the right decisions, and they need to know that their leader, in turn, trusts them to understand and support the company’s mission in their day-to-day performance.

That trust is the glue that bonds employees to their leader, to one another, and to the company they work for.

So how are leaders generating this environment of trust in the workplace? According to the Deloitte study, there are several behaviors that effective leaders demonstrate on the job. To explore these key trust-building behaviors in more detail, we’ve filtered them through three of HRSG’s transformational leadership competencies:

Exemplifying Integrity. Demonstrating and supporting integrity is essential to building trust among employees. As the “face” of the organization, leaders must act fairly and ethically—not just in the workplace, but in all aspects of their lives. This includes not just developing policies and measures that support ethical behaviors among employees, but modelling good corporate citizenship inside the organization and out in the community. As workplace demographics slant more towards values-focused Millennials, living and working with integrity will become an increasingly important leadership quality.

Fostering Communication. In a world where digital media has opened powerful and very public channels of communication, and where transparency is an indispensable corporate virtue, being able to participate in the conversation effectively has never been more important. A nuanced understanding of how to adapt your communication style to fit different audiences and contexts can help you engage employees and other stakeholders inside and outside the organization, invite feedback, and build support and consensus.

Ensuring Accountability. It may seem counterintuitive that demanding accountability from employees is a powerful mechanism for boosting retention and engagement. After all, enforcing standards and imposing expectations doesn’t sound nearly as fun as free snacks or a designated nap room. But trusting employees to take responsibility, take risks, and own their successes and failures gives them a deeper sense of organizational connection and personal empowerment. However, the expectation flows both ways: leaders must model accountability themselves by communicating honestly, taking responsibility for mistakes, and holding themselves to the highest personal and organizational standards.

The behaviors that define successful leaders today are vastly different than they were a decade ago, but HRSG’s transformational leadership competencies can help you prepare your leaders for the new world of work. Based on decades of research, these competencies provide detailed, observable criteria for identifying and developing the skills that predict success in today’s workplace.

See how HRSG’s transformational leadership competencies can improve your leadership development activities.

About the Author

Sarah Beckett

Sarah is an experienced marketer with over 10 years experience. She drives HRSG brand marketing strategy and the implementation of all related programs.

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