The Engagement Crisis
The landscape of leadership and management is facing a pivotal challenge in 2024 – an engagement crisis triggered by the pandemic and the widespread adoption of hybrid work environments (as beneficial for work/life balance as that has been). The crash in employee engagement persists, demanding leaders to tackle a fundamental question: How do we foster sustained engagement and trust in an era where face-to-face interactions are limited?
The key to the solution is simpler than you might think – it's all about how you communicate.
Unveiling the Challenge
Hybrid working undoubtedly offers immense benefits in terms of work/life balance, but it also brings its own set of challenges. A recent Gallup poll highlights the concerns of both employees and organizations in this new working model.
The challenge lies in maintaining relationships within teams and organisations. The reduced face-to-face interactions result in neglected bonds, impacting engagement. The significance of this became personally evident to me recently when a family member chose retirement after realising the vital role interpersonal interactions played in his working life. Without the regular social aspect even after the pandemic, he preferred to call it a day than face what he saw as essentially an isolation.
Harvard Business's "Global Leadership Development Study 2023" underscores the upcoming challenge of humanising leadership in the digital age. "Driving inspiration and motivation among employees" emerges as a top business challenge, emphasising the need for inter-personal skills and qualities like empathy. However, the study also shows that the gap between the importance leaders place on empathy (78%) and its manifestation in organisational culture (47%) is substantial and persistent.
With a lack of engagement, insufficient empathy skills, and a world grappling with political turmoil, conflict becomes more prevalent in the workplace too. Indeed, Gartner's "Workplace Predictions for CHROs in 2024" recognises conflict resolution as a vital skill for managers. Yet, many lack the training to effectively navigate and manage interpersonal conflicts among employees. In addition, Harvard Business research found that "Empathy in communication, feedback sharing, and listening" is rated as the most important leadership skills for meeting business needs in the next year.
The Rise of AI and the Human Touch
Lastly, in an era dominated by AI, communication often lacks the human touch, the warmth of personality or the individuality needed to create that sense of community from home. To add to that, the need to appear credible and professional sometimes means we create barriers ourselves, we put on a 'professional veneer' and shy away from the simple things like smiling or asking about feelings, hindering authentic connections in the workplace.
So what can we do?
Research consistently points to the need for more human qualities – empathy and conflict resolution skills – to combat the global disengagement witnessed among workers. The way we communicate with our teams becomes ever more important to counteract these challenges, acting as the catalyst to rekindle motivation for an organisation they may feel disconnected from.
Addressing the engagement crisis may seem overwhelming, but the solution starts at the one-to-one level. Here are a few simple strategies to boost engagement immediately:
Ask more questions: Prioritize understanding over proving your status.
Be human: Embrace your humanity; a smile and personal touch go a long way.
Publish your reaction: Acknowledge and validate emotions, even if you don't agree.
Check in on feelings: Focus on how your team feels about what they're doing, not just what they're doing.
It's not always a restructuring program or a top-down root and branch reassessment that's needed, it can be that extra time you put in to conversations with your team. While it takes practice, this shift in interaction can transform engagement instantly. ZEN Coaching is here to support you on this journey of change of course. A safe risk-free environment to try out new ways of talking to your team is just what is needed in many cases.
Visit our landing page here to find out more and book a chat with us so we can confront your engagement challenge full-on. Check out how we work and why experiential training is so much more effective than any other method too.