Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Amina AlTai — Holistic Leadership & Mindset Coach. Helping authentic executives lead well, feel great and do good.
Due to the global pandemic, changes in work-life balance, the strong candidate market, childcare and other factors, an estimated 5.9 million people have left their jobs since March 2020, causing a major talent leak in the workforce. Now, more than ever, leaders need to take a more conscious approach to leadership if they wish to retain employees and offset the major losses they’ve experienced from significant turnover. And it starts with stronger social skills. In fact, recent research (registration required) suggests that social skills are even more important than functional expertise for C-suite leaders. Leaders at the top need to take a more conscious approach if they want to significantly slow attrition and plug the talent leak.
As a result of the culminating events of the last two years, employees are significantly reevaluating their workplaces and career trajectories. According to Gallup, only 15% of the global workforce is engaged, and the team leader is linked to 70% of the variance in this engagement. How we lead within organizations is more critical than ever. The cost of talent loss is much higher than headhunter fees and lost productivity; it impacts morale, it can enhance attrition and the costs grow exponentially over time
Here are five key areas leadership can focus on to mitigate those costs and support employees' thriving over the long term.
1. Focus on self-awareness.
To create healthy environments where others can thrive, we first and foremost need to get clear on the type of environment we’re creating, and that starts with self-awareness. This focus on self-awareness is about supporting leaders to tap into their authenticity, empowering them to enhance their communication skills, leadership style and conflict management in order to better support those they manage. This is also an invitation to look at our own biases and potential blind spots. Every leader has places where their view of themselves is obscured, and it’s important to address those areas so we can avoid causing harm to those we work with. This level of self-awareness helps us better understand how we are showing up as leaders, if we’re creating healthy environments or if we are contributing to a culture of frustration and burnout. This is what my colleague, founder of the Conscious Leadership Training Method, H.L. Ray calls “conscious leadership.”
2. Lead with purpose.
Conscious leaders are purpose-driven leaders. Organizations with higher purpose scores have more engaged employees and higher total shareholder return over ten years. But shareholder return aside, many businesses are recognizing that employees want more from their work and want to be connected to a bigger vision, or a "triple bottom line" (people, planet and profit) approach. Gen-Z and Millennials tend to be more purpose-driven than previous generations. Their values and experiences have been significantly impacted by social issues of the last decade—from climate activism to social justice. Many want to work in organizations aligned around those values and sense of purpose. Gen-Z is also the most diverse generation in the United States, and many want to see their leaders honor that diversity inside their companies and truly get into action around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
3. Build a growth mindset culture.
A hallmark of a growth mindset culture is self-awareness, and it encourages employees to try new things, embrace challenges and be open to feedback that allows them to grow and learn. To create a growth mindset culture, leaders need to embody those qualities themselves. We can also support employees’ growth by putting intentional learning and development into place, creating a culture of perpetual learning and bringing patience and empathy into the workplace as we cultivate new skills.
4. Develop a culture of feedback.
A study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found that though few leaders want to give constructive feedback, most employees actually want to receive it because it allows them to grow. If we aren’t being honest about constructive feedback, not only does it undermine trust, but it also stunts employees’ ability to grow. Some organizations lack formal feedback protocols, but as leaders, it is on us to establish regular feedback sessions in order to make space for growth.
5. Continually build trust.
A lack of trust greatly undermines a growth mindset culture and the psychological safety employees feel. One of the fastest ways to build trust is to leverage situational leadership, which is an adaptive leadership style developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. Situational leadership invites leaders to flex their leadership style based on employees' abilities and motivations and the business situation. Therefore we can uniquely support each employee, moment-to-moment, building greater trust as we do.