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Yesterday, I overheard a man say, “I can’t wait for my vacation next week. I need a break from the grind.” I thought, is that how most people would describe work? Nothing more than the daily grind?
Yes, actually. According to a recent Gallop study, just 13 per cent of the world’s employees are happy and engaged at work. Unhappy employees are always less productive. So, what does this mean for organizations? To maximize their results, organizations need to start considering their employees “happiness quotient.”
Employees, especially of the millennial generation, no longer view work merely as a means to pay the bills. People are searching for work that is interesting, meaningful and yes, makes them happy. In fact, it is not uncommon for millennials to accept a lower-paying job if they believe it’s going to make them happier.
So, who is responsible for our happiness at work? Both organizations and employees play an equal role in creating an engaging work experience.
Employers need to create a culture that people want to be part of. Tony Hsieh, chief executive officer of online shoe retailer Zappos.com, clearly understands this concept. In a very crowded marketplace, he created a fun corporate culture where people are excited to get up every morning and come to work to sell shoes. His product is not sexy but his culture is irresistible.
Employees, on the other hand, need to come to work with a positive attitude, a desire to work hard and a willingness to grow and develop as their organization evolves. Employees need to be resilient. They need to be willing to adapt to organizational change, which in today’s work environment is constant.
Leaders also play a huge role in an employee’s “happiness quotient” at work. In fact, most people leave managers not companies.
I recently interviewed a group of millennials about their leadership preferences. They told me that the best leaders are not only knowledgeable but also authentic and caring. Their perspective might differ from that of other generations but it cannot be ignored. Millennials currently account for roughly 35 per cent of the work force and are projected to be 45 per cent by 2015.
So how can leaders who are often swamped and overworked themselves find the time to engage their employees in a meaningful way? By implementing the following three strategies:
1. Be a mentor and a guide
View your team members as people, not employees. Care about their success and nurture their professional growth. As a mentor, don’t be afraid to give both positive and constructive feedback. Help them to understand corporate politics, policies and procedures.
2. Let them excel their way
Set clear goals and move out of the way. Even if their approach differs from your method, focus on “what” they accomplish, not “how” it gets done.
3. Be genuine and authentic
It is no longer necessary for a manager to be formal and distant. People today respect leaders who are genuine and real. With role models like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, it’s okay to dress casually, it’s okay to share personal information and it’s certainly okay to make a mistake. Leaders are no longer expected to be perfect. Rather, they are applauded for just being themselves.
I recently met with the CEO of a small manufacturing organization who exemplifies the above characteristics. For 30 years, he has humbly developed a multimillion-dollar business. While he has had to update the technology in his business, the way he runs his business and treats his employees has not changed. He is now mentoring his 28-year-old son to take over the business. His lessons? Be nice, treat people with respect and deliver on your promises.
So, maybe in a fast-paced, complex work environment, some old-fashioned advice can keep your employees happy and help them to succeed.
Vanessa Judelman is the president of Mosaic People Development (@MosaicPD), a leadership and executive development firm.