In just a year and a half, many of us have had our lives turned upside-down. The divide between those who work in an office who can work remotely and essential workers who need to be on-site has widened exponentially.
The re-evaluation of our life priorities has steered towards health, loved ones and purpose. The realization of how fragile life is has led to an exodus of people leaving their companies despite uncertainties. Burnout and a lack of fulfilment have been the main culprits. A Microsoft survey shows that 46 per cent of the workforce are planning to move jobs. In the US, 1.3 million workers were dismissed in June. Yet three times the number, 3.9 million people, quit their jobs.
Professor Anthony Klotz at Texas A&M calls this the ‘Great Resignation’. Although he acknowledges that not all turnover is negative, he urges companies not to be tempted to be lazy and simply ‘return to the old normal.’ Instead, they should seek a new way forward using a ‘more personalized, listen-first approach.’
This flight of talent should be a wake-up call to companies. High turnovers are disruptive and expensive. This phenomenon has been a surprise to employers since, during conventional economic downturns, employers tend to hold the upper hand. It has become more than about money. The cost to health and personal life start to outweigh the benefits.
It can be as Simple as Starting with One Individual
Enter Rajeev Daswani, founder of ‘A Happiness Coaching Centre’ in Dubai, about how more conscious leadership can transform the work environment whereby employees can thrive in supportive company cultures.
Over 20 years ago, Rajeev started a company specialising in Industrial Plating and refurbishment of mechanical components in the oil and gas industry. He realized that when the company was smaller, it was easy to maintain more personal relationships which were reinforced by mutual and vulnerable trust. As the company grew, like in every business, processes started to take precedence over human connections. He also started to notice how process driven businesses became less personalized and as a result, people were less happy. Both employees and customers were constantly preoccupied with problems
‘No one was smiling, no one cared about how you were feeling.’ he explains. ‘External influences were affecting them that we couldn’t control.’
This led him down a path of introspection and personal development.
Rajeev conducted a 360-degree feedback analysis and discovered how to plug the gaps and blind spots between how the culture was in reality and what he wanted it to be. One example he shared was how he learned that despite him having always vocalized his vision for the organization, his team felt they needed him to communicate more. They expressed a desire to connect with a grander purpose and work towards it together. When this was done, he saw an increase in performance and engagement.
It begged the question: how can workers feel more valued and be more purpose-driven? After all, people may work out of the necessity to pay their bills, but they work better when inspired.
Everybody Wants to be a Better Version of Her/Himself
‘Leadership is a lonely position. We don’t trust each other,’ says Rajeev. ‘And I am not just referring to managers. Each of us is a leader in our sphere. Whether you are making a living from providing services or selling products, that should not be the only driver. You have to think bigger.‘
He explains that even if not every organisation is purpose-led, it is not difficult to find your ‘raison d’être’. Every product is created for a purpose. One person’s experience can spur interest and create ripples.
Conscious organisations, according to Rajeev, operate through love, by understanding the value of trust. They know that it is not necessary to operate through fear and repercussions.
How To Create a Positive Impact
The first thing Rajeev recommends is to take the pulse of the company. That is, to conduct a culture audit. Using ‘The Barrett’s Value Culture Tool’, one can identify the level of entropy, or disengagement, as well as measure the present values and the desired values that the organization is striving for. Using such tools allow you to manage and work tangibly towards closing the disparity.
We want to be conscious of the implications of our actions and strive to create a positive impact. Leaders perform better when they can see tangible results. They need to exude behaviours that others can see.
He agrees that buy-in from top management is important. However, there has been a switch in mindset. Employees are thinking ‘Why am I here? Am I contributing to the system and making an impact?’ They are realizing that they have a choice. Purpose is our intrinsic motivator as humans. So structures need to evolve.
It is the culture of the company that dictates the structure. As companies switch to different work models such as the growing trend towards hybrid work, it is imperative for corporate culture to be aligned. Take a culture that is motivated by autonomy, employees will flourish in a hybrid system as compared to a culture that does not work well with this value. The magic happens when the culture is aligned. Teams come together, are more resilient and better cope with duress.
Communication is fundamental in humanizing the enterprise. We should acknowledge that our colleagues, like us, have opinions, hopes and fears. They also wish to be appreciated and treated with respect. By being more conscious about how others may react to your words or message, you have a better chance of getting your point across rather than causing agitation or having your content interpreted as a personal attack.
A positive environment allows employees to collaborate and increases engagement, rather than trigger confrontation. It builds psychological safety. We become more creative, trusting and open-minded when we feel secure and supported. This is a win-win scenario. Motivated employees are more productive. High performing teams are more innovative. Companies reap the rewards.
Organisations who wish to have a competitive advantage no longer have a choice but to listen to what their employees want. Whether it is more flexibility, autonomy, growth opportunities, or a more supportive management.
Rajeev Daswani shares three tips on how to listen and communicate in an open way
1. Create a space for open communication before meetings.
Don’t start every meeting with the agenda but ‘humanize the space’ by allowing everyone to connect first. Allow for vulnerability when you ask how you are doing? Don’t simply accept ‘I am fine’, but ask questions that allow people to share. Example: Anything exciting happened this weekend? How are things at home now post pandemic? Teams need to feel connected and we must allow each other to truly share without reservation.
2. Begin Active Listening exercises at work.
Where you divide your team up into pairs and ask them to share stories, asking each person to listen attentively. There is no need to answer while they are talking. The important thing is to be in the moment and pay attention to the other person. After the exercise, have their partner share what they heard, as well as where their mind may have wandered. When we begin to practice active listening, we become more aware when we do not actively listen.
3. Measure measure measure!
Organizations need to lead the way by encouraging self-development tools. Use the amazing tools out there so that your team can get to know themselves better. If you want to improve communication, you need to ensure that each person is aware of who they are and how they are perceived. Measure values, natural behaviours, personality types, emotional intelligence, strengths and weaknesses. Have teams come together and share their results, highlight similarities and celebrate differences. We have to personalize team building so that our teams get to know each other and learn how to collaborate. They should be able to disagree in a productive manner and inspire an environment that helps each person grow.
How long does it take to make a change? The transition starts once you bring awareness into the company, is Rajeev’s answer. And he encourages leaders to make the switch starting now.
Rajeev Daswani guides companies on a ‘Conscious Corporate Journey’. He also provides tools for assessments, one-to-one coaching, and organises happiness and wellness retreats.