Nowadays it’s almost impossible to visit any business-related website without seeing headlines about the great resignation the great reshuffling the great reevaluation or some other term that’s being used to describe the rapid changes in employment happening around the country. Authors, consultants, and business leaders are all offering opinions and solutions for improving recruiting and retention that can help organizations react to the increased competition for talent. And there is an abundance of really good advice on improving employee experience to drive retention. Increased flexibility in work locations and hours, more autonomy and better professional development offerings are frequently recommended as necessary approaches for organizations navigating the current turbulence. While all of these actions will certainly help, recent research by McKinsey suggests that there may be another, more important factor at play in the retention decisions of your employees.
According to the McKinsey survey, the number one reason people are leaving jobs when they don’t have another job to go to: uncaring leaders. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. As the pandemic has ratcheted up stress levels and challenged even the most resilient employees to balance perceived threats to their physical and emotional wellbeing with personal, family, and job expectations, we should expect that individual’s need to feel seen and supported by their supervisors and leaders throughout their organization would also increase. And as such, a key responsibility of any leader must be to demonstrate that they genuinely care about their teams. If you want to amplify the care you have for your team, here are a few strategies:
Practice kindness first
As Mr. Rogers famously said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” It can be easy to let a focus on outcomes and the drive for progress distract us from the need to always be kind to one another. The vast majority of people on your team show up with good intentions and a desire to contribute to the success of the team. Even when they fail or make a big mistake, kindness dictates that you assume positive motivations and see each mistake as an opportunity to learn and grow. And, when stress is high, even small disagreements can feel like major issues. And, it’s ok to feel that way – but always remember, in both big and small things, if you lead with kindness you’ll build the sense of connection and belonging that creates a sense of belonging that leads to retention, drives performance, and promotes the long term health and success of your organization.
To me, the best way to show your team members that you care is simply to make time for them. And while simple, it can also be difficult. Schedules are packed and workload is high. And, often, it can seem like there are more meetings than hours in the day. So, finding time to engage one-on-one with your team members can definitely be a challenge. But, if you want to demonstrate care for your team, there’s really no substitute for spending time with them and listening to what they think is important.
Invest in yourself and in others – Part of caring for your team members is remembering to care for yourself. If you are doing the things you need to do to ensure you bring your best self to work, not only will you not have the capacity to care for others, but you won’t be role modeling healthy behaviors and approaches to work. So, don’t let your own wellbeing take a back seat to the demands of work or to caring for your team. Instead, look for ways to refresh and revitalize yourself so that you have the reserves you need to invest in others.
There seems to be no indications that the pace of turnover and reshuffling will slow anytime soon. So, if you want to help your organization attract and keep the talent you need to thrive, investing time to show your employees how much you care would be a great place to start.