Leadership in the Post-Pandemic World: How to influence a sense of belonging
By Ardele Karaganis, Strategic HR Consulting
Whether your employees are returning to the workplace, working remotely, or balancing a hybrid of both, leaders have a role to play in creating a sense of belonging among employees.
The pandemic has disrupted many leaders’ relationships with their employees. As the new normal emerges, these disruptions could impact how employees view their contributions or level of belonging in an organization. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends research, 44% of executive survey respondents said contribution was the biggest driver of belonging at their organization. How is contribution evaluated within your business? And how can you influence your employees’ sense of belonging in this new, ever-changing post-pandemic environment?
For leaders to effectively manage results and encourage a sense of belonging they need a well-rounded set of skills and abilities.
Right now, every leader should be over-communicating with their teams. This means ensuring that each team member receives the information they need when they need it, regardless of their physical work arrangement. This will require leaders to do more frequent check-ins with employees using tailored communication methods (i.e., email, text, chat platforms, video conferencing). Ask your team what method works best for them (for the individual and the group). By using their preferred communication methods, you can demonstrate care, show interest, and express gratitude in a way that is meaningful to your employees.
Sharing expected & actual outcomes
One approach to show your team members the value of their contributions is to emphasize outcomes in performance management. Outcomes speak directly to a worker’s contributions toward organizational objectives. Deloitte’s data indicates that the shift toward outcome-based performance management is already underway. It’s no longer about how much time employees spend working — especially when leaders may not be able to monitor how long their remote teams worked. More than 65% of executives in Deloitte’s report agreed that they believed metrics would need to shift from capturing outcomes rather than outputs in the next five years.
Coaching your employees, whether for developmental purposes or preparing them for their next promotion, is essential to successfully support your organization’s new way of working. Team members can experience an increased sense of belonging and engagement with frequent, quality coaching from their leaders.
A pre-pandemic example of how coaching can support your organizational objectives in a post-pandemic environment is that of the 2016 shift in Microsoft’s approach to leadership from “command control” to coaching their 130,000 employees. As part of this shift, Jean-Phillipe Courtois (their newly appointed CEO) encouraged his leadership team to focus on asking coaching-oriented questions including,
- What are you trying to do?
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- How can we help?
These types of questions can further demonstrate to your staff that you care about them not only as employees but as people.
Motivating and team building
In work environments where team members may be remote and in office, motivating and creating team cohesiveness can be challenging. Effective leaders acknowledge this and embrace new and innovative ways to motivate and bring teams together to accomplish organizational goals. Celebrating successes through virtual and in-person interactions including meetings, emails, chat rooms, and virtual get togethers can support your team building efforts. Themed days to celebrate various holidays (i.e. Halloween, etc.) that bring your staff together may look different than the pre-pandemic approach. There is no shortage of well tested strategies available through a quick search on the internet when you are looking for ideas in this area.
During the pandemic, leaders have had to pivot their leadership style to meet the new needs of their employees and business. As they face the new way of working, whatever that may look like for their organization, they should consider these questions:
- How can we see without being “there”?
- How do we support and engage our workforce?
- What are the ways we can create high-quality connections? Connections that will keep employees engaged and feeling a sense of belonging.
- How can we, as leaders, demonstrate care and foster inclusion?
These questions represent just a few of the qualities that leaders will need to possess to be successful as organizations moves forward into the post-pandemic world.
When challenges are multiplied, the basic skills of leaders also become more critical than ever. Leaders need to learn and practice proven approaches to motivating, coaching, and communicating effectively.
Ardele is a senior human resources professional with over 18 years’ human resources leadership experience. In the past number of years, Ardele has specialized in employee and leadership development through her senior roles in Learning and Development.