Why does your leadership brand matter more now than ever? In order to answer that question we need to first examine the context of the current workforce marketplace.
Because we’re in the midst of a once-in-a-generation economy-wide disruption, today’s leaders are faced with the challenge of how to re-engage their workforces — workforces who come back to their workplaces (real or virtual) with a different world view than they had before the pandemic began.
When we look at workforce data across the U.S., we’re seeing a seismic reshuffling. Quit rates have never been higher in the last decade — a trend that’s happening across lower wage roles as well as professional types of roles — while at the same time, job openings are at all-time highs across the economy.
As Global Workforce Advisors, we’ve identified a strong underlying driver of what we’re seeing beneath the surface of the data. It’s more of a “Great Reawakening.” Individuals who have been through a major collective life event and have been impacted in a myriad of ways, from loved ones lost to the pandemic to working remotely while trying to manage childcare, are rethinking their priorities.
We’re entering the age of the empowered employee. These are employees who have a choice about where they work. At the heart of it, employees are seeking a stronger sense of belonging in their organizations. As such, leaders need to acknowledge this shift in mindsets and meet their employees there with a more holistic approach to engagement and retention that creates a trusting, supportive environment in which people can thrive — and ultimately feel compelled to stay put.
Is there a business case for this? Take your pick. Gallup’s research that shows the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from 1.5 to two times the employee’s annual salary — and that’s a conservative estimate. Attrition is expensive; this isn’t new information. In the face of an unprecedented talent shortage, every retained employee is worth their weight in gold in terms of minimizing the ripple effect across the organization. For example, according to Glassdoor, we know that it takes as long as eight months to get a new employee up to full productivity, and the drain on internal resources to cover the gap is taxing.
The good news, according to Harvard Business Review, is that employees who are aligned around the organizational mission and feel comfortable contributing their ideas (i.e., employees with a sense of belonging) are 50 percent more likely to stay. Today’s leaders have an opportunity and expectation to engage with their workforce in new ways.
With the long-overdue focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), on an individual level, Amy Edmondson’s work on psychological safety takes on even more relevance. It’s an important concept directly related to inclusion and belonging. She states, “Psychological safety — the belief that one can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation — has been well established as a critical driver of high-quality decision making, healthy group dynamics and interpersonal relationships, greater innovation, and more effective execution in organizations.”
We’ve always believed that leaders need to define their leadership brand to articulate their value to the organization and investment in their people. This transparency allows the team the opportunity to align with and deliver on the mission. As we circle back to our assertion that Your Leadership Brand MATTERS in the War for Talent, we’re ready to answer the question: How do you develop your leadership brand?
As we outline the steps to developing your leadership brand, we include ideas from culture expert, D. Mark Schumann:
- Within the context of your current business environment and strategic objectives, define your goals — e.g., the CFO who capitalizes on opportunities that maximize profits.
- Clarify who you are as a leader — that is, clarifying for what it is that you want to be known or what you want your legacy to be – e.g., being the CFO who maximizes while making it easier on employees to streamline and simplify operations.
- Examine your audience (employees, customers, investors, the organization) to ensure your focus is on how you bring value — e.g., the CFO who maximizes profits and streamlines operations, making it easier on employees to drive the top to the bottom line.
- Articulate your message, testing it with your board of advisors as a way to ensure that you can bring it to life, shaping what people experience at work — e.g., asking your truth-tellers the value you provide for them and how they would describe you to validate your positioning.
- Share your clear vision for the future, acknowledging and investing in the culture you want to lead, and how that can empower and enable people to do their best work. Because this concept is more than words, to help it come to life, how would you respond to these questions that demonstrate if your actions are supporting your words: How clearly are you sharing your vision? In other words, can everyone in the organization share it if asked, in easy-to-explain terms with examples of what it looks like in practice? What specific steps are you taking to foster trust in your organization? For instance, what are you doing to role-model that mistakes and failure are opportunities for learning? And how are you being real and vulnerable?
- Be accountable, holding yourself and members of your organization responsible for driving a sense of inclusion and belonging — underlying factors in engagement.
Data show that there’s no more important time to practice authentic leadership than now. What will you do to bring your leadership brand to life?