Engaging employees tops leadership priorities in tough times

Engaging employees to ensure organizational alignment and commitment is the most important leadership practice to achieve business goals in tough business times, according to more than half of senior leaders and human resource professionals surveyed by Right Management, the talent and career management expert within Manpower, a world leader in the employment services industry.
Right Management polled over 650 senior leaders and HR professionals in North America to gain insight into their most important leadership practices to achieve business goals in tough times. According to the survey, the most important leadership practices are:
  • 51 per cent - Engaging employees to ensure organizational alignment and commitment
  • 21 per cent - Clearly defining roles and expectations
  • 13 per cent - Making efficient and informed personnel decisions
  • 15 per cent - Developing current skill base and capabilities within organization
The weak economy and chaotic financial markets are hitting businesses hard and forcing them to make tough people decisions, says Owen Sullivan, CEO of Right Management. “It’s in times of hardship and uncertainty that leaders are investing more in engaging and aligning their employees to reap the utmost commitment, productivity and focus. Leaders know that it’s only the collective talent of their workforces that will pull them through.”
Sullivan notes that in tough times leaders are reconsidering their priorities to ensure the viability of their organizations. “Leaders are being forced to make very tough business decisions in order to not only survive, but to come out stronger. Leaders need to convey difficult messages that help their workforce understand the rationale for current actions while also instilling confidence and commitment so that objectives can be met.”
The most significant leadership development need during tough times is providing leaders with the tools to effectively address the transitions and adjustments that will need to be made given the downsizing and budget cuts that take place and the adverse impact of these on employee engagement, advises Sullivan. “Those that remain are typically anxious about the ambiguity in their own situations despite the fact they still have a job. Leaders must manage this situation very skilfully or they are likely to see those remaining either start looking for another job, disengage from the company attitudinally, or simply ‘quit and stay’ while waiting until the air clears.”
Sullivan recommends that leaders:
  • Spend time with their people rather than avoiding them;
  • Answer their employees’ questions to the best of the their ability; and, most importantly,
  • Continually reinforce each employee’s value to the company.
“These types of activities engage both leaders and employees in understanding the existing conditions and how they can collectively assist in addressing them,” advises Sullivan. “Reaching out to employees during difficult times to better understand their concerns and interests by openly and honestly conveying the impact of the downturn on them and their organizations can provide a solid foundation for not only engaging them but retaining them when things do turn around.”
Right Management conducted the online poll between January and February 2009. A total of 677 senior leaders and human resource professionals from a wide range of industries and functions responded to the survey. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4 per cent with a 95 per cent confidence level.
For more information, visit www.right.com.