Businesses learned a lot during the pandemic era, and one of the most important take-aways is the imperative to develop a different perspective in how we engage with our employees. New work processes, and still emerging ways of working together are challenging each of us to identify our own best practices to re-engage our talent.

Solutions, programs, interventions—there is seemingly no limit to ideas for addressing resilience and engagement.  Depending on your employees and your company’s culture any or all of them can work. How do you decide? Here are two basic principles and five practical ideas to keep in mind as you decide which is best for you.

Sharon Confessore, PhD
Sharon Confessore

Principle 1: Engaged employees trust the organization and its leaders

Employees want to know that the organization and its leaders will do what they say they will do. This includes transparency and fairness in decision-making.  This is especially important for organizations still refining work roles and defining return to work and hybrid rules.  To reinforce trust in your organization and leaders, consider the following:

Delegate Decision-Making Appropriately

Involving team members in identifying solutions and encouraging them to challenge each other’s ideas to arrive at the best solutions generates better outcomes, builds commitment to the decision, and encourages the effort necessary to learn new behaviors.

CMR Institute’s eModule Decision Making as a Function of Leadership contains an excellent model for this approach.

Clarify Thinking Behind Final Decisions

Providing rationale for a final decision reassures employees by providing context and reinforces that the decision is aligned with the company’s mission and goals. It also provides an opportunity for the leader to acknowledge input and thinking of team members, especially those whose recommendations were not accepted. Finally, it develops a practice within the organization so that all decisions have been made thoughtfully and with transparency.

Principle 2: Engaged employees believe they will be successful

During the pandemic, some employees demonstrated incredible creativity and flexibility as work routines and conditions evolved while others struggled.  Research tells us our ability to deal with stressful and changing conditions is linked to our belief that we have some control over the situation and have confidence in our own ability to figure out and execute a solution.  Rapid-change and seemingly no end to chaotic conditions where tasks and standards change constantly can erode resilience and connection to leaders and team members.  Consider these actions when rebuilding confidence and connection:

Use a learning perspective

Many leaders are using the framework of “fail fast frequently” to build a different perspective on performance. The most effective learning organizations develop their leaders to be coaches who ask great questions and guide real-time development one experience at a time. Conversations are focused on asking team members to assess outcomes of a project and what they learned, then solicit upgrades or better ways to go forward. Focusing on learning builds a learning mindset—seeing challenges as opportunities to learn something new, take a risk and increase proficiency. It shifts less-successful outcomes from failures to growth opportunities, building confidence and resilience.

Provide consistent work conditions and clear expectations

Pandemic disruptions fundamentally changed priorities and the ways we work—all at hyper-speed. This highlights the need for what experts call expectation clarity. Now is the time to clearly (re)define performance standards, changed responsibilities, and key deliverables. Taking time to clearly define expectations and confirm standard operating procedures reduces the energy employees will spend on figuring out “the new normal”—both for working conditions and relationships with their leader and team members. Consistency in expectations and working conditions allows employees to establish routines saving time and cognitive energy, allowing them to work more efficiently. Consistency also encourages developing the mastery necessary to build confidence and engagement.

Create new Stories Together

Savvy leaders have been doing this throughout the last two+ years, as their employees have gone through the upheaval of new working conditions, life-style changes, and crazy demands. Stories reconnect employees to each other and the company by creating a common understanding of what’s happened and how things are evolving. Reconnecting to the mission through stories is a powerful way to remind employees why they joined the company and reinforce why they stay. Finally, stories are especially important if you are moving to hybrid or WFH because they reinforce connections with others and build community, making “remote” feel less alone, especially for newer employees.

CMR Institute’s eBrief “Storytelling” may be a helpful resource to support this recommended action step.

Ensuring A Resilient Workforce

Without a doubt, leaders are challenged on many fronts, and ensuring an engaged and resilient workforce is paramount.  Focusing on the basics—trust and confidence—provides a solid foundation for creating and engaging learning-ready and resilient employees, positioning them and your company for success.

To learn more about building a resilient workforce, take a look at CMR’s Leadership and Management eModules.

About The Author

Sharon J. Confessore, PhD
Principal and Founding Partner, HRDEnterprises, LLC

Sharon Confessore is a learning and organization effectiveness leader known for inspiring others to leverage learning, change, organization culture, and leadership development to achieve results. An innovative talent development leader and strategist in healthcare organizations and a skilled coach and thought partner to executive leaders, she lead corporate-wide transformations, created clinician leadership programs, and executed corporate-wide assessments and redesigns to maximize the human potential in her organizations.

Sharon is a member of the Board of Directors of CMR Institute. She is a Principal and founding member of CSuite3, a professional services firm that partners with organizations to create new talent development and learning solutions. Sharon’s professional experience also includes Chief Learning Officer at Bon Secours Health System in Marriottsville MD, Sr. Director of Organization Effectiveness and Talent Development at Kaiser Permanente, and Associate Professor at George Washington University. She has co-authored a book on self-directed learning and completed numerous articles and presentations focusing on leadership development, learning systems design, and change management. Her most recent article addresses developing emerging leaders during chaotic times.

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