6th March, 2022
Effective leaders realise that creating the conditions for a more empowered, passionate and purposeful workforce will benefit their organisations in the long run.
Both employees and business leaders are longing for an emotional connection to the work that we do and a real understanding of the impact we have on our wider ecosystem. (Picture: Getty)
Workplaces are being reimagined, and right now the only certainty is that they are going to be very different in the future from what we know now, presenting both opportunities and challenges.
Jobs are more complex, organisations are transforming, and senior leaders are challenged to lead through periods of rapid change and uncertainty, demanding a shift in mindset and an openness to changing their leadership approach.
Against this backdrop, organisations are facing unprecedented volatility in recruitment and retention, and many believe the lack of availability of talent will have a significant impact on their ability to deliver on future strategic objectives.
At Fastnet Executive Search, we recently conducted a survey to understand more about the opportunities and challenges leaders face as we enter the post-pandemic era.
From 250 executives surveyed – 85 per cent of whom are working in the life sciences industry – 88 per cent cited employee engagement as the most critical challenge facing leaders today. The majority, 77 per cent, of those view connection to the organisation’s purpose as the most critical priority in improving employee engagement, with autonomy and trust at 67 per cent.
There is something broken in today’s organisations where the vast majority of employees are disengaged at work and leaders are tired of the rat race and the seemingly unattainable pursuit of employee satisfaction. It is widely acknowledged that today’s leaders are under pressure, dealing with multiple streams of incoming information, struggling with work life balance, and potentially facing burnout.
There is no doubt that when we are stressed, we are less compassionate, have tunnel vision and find it very difficult to stand back, question, consider and listen. Are we so caught up in addressing the symptoms of poor employee engagement that we are not taking the time to step back and focus on the source of the problem – that employees are disconnected from the organisation’s purpose?
In the modern world, many of our organisations are ruthlessly innovative and efficient machines in pursuit of profits and shareholder value, where employees are viewed as resources within an organisational structure, driving further innovation and growth. As we enjoy unprecedented industrial prosperity, many of us are questioning the meaning of it all. We are also longing for an emotional connection to the work that we do and a real understanding of the impact we have on our wider ecosystem.
As talent shortages have become more of an issue in recent years, organisations have increasingly focussed on workplace aesthetics, wellbeing programmes and creative perks to try and ensure their teams are happy and engaged. These initiatives are well meaning and have a place, of course, but we need to focus on creating more systemically attuned organisations that are agile and emergent, creating the conditions for a more empowered, passionate and purposeful workforce.
While job scope and reward packages continue to be key drivers for candidates making significant career choices, there is an increased focus on purpose and values. What is it really like to work here?
We are all part of an interdependent social and economic ecosystem and while achieving growth and profitability is a necessity for most commercial enterprises, the sense of being part of something greater than ourselves is more intrinsically motivating than traditional perceptions of corporate success.
The right leaders create environments where learning is a priority, where ideas and feedback are shared authentically, autonomy is fostered, and decision-making is distributed. Employees no longer feel managed, they feel valued and listened to, nurturing a more meaningful connection to the value they create during their workday.
No leader is a superhero. They can’t transform an organisation or be truly successful without the support, collective intelligence and nourishment of a team. As leaders, we would all benefit from slowing down, thinking more deeply, encouraging vulnerability and nurturing human connections. When employees feel empowered, purposeful, and engaged, transformation unfolds, it is not forced.
We have come through a period that has facilitated an exceptional chance for deep reflection and reassessment, and rather than succumbing to the temptation of a return to normal, I feel it is an opportune time to be brave, innovative, and creative in defining our future way of working.
The leaders who will flourish in the future will strive to serve the interests of multiple stakeholder groups, building successful, sustainable organisations where everybody thrives.
Éimhín O’Driscoll is the Managing Partner of Fastnet Executive Search, the recruitment company.
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