Employees want to work for value-based organizations—ones with a living, breathing culture of shared core values among all employees. For the last two years, that was easier, if not just less of a priority, as employers everywhere were providing employees with options to stay safe and healthy in the comfort of their own home, save time and money on commutes to work, and spend more free time with their loved ones. As the world began to reopen, many of these employers called their employees back into the office—which also coincided with a mass exodus of employees from organizations whose values no longer (or maybe never) aligned with their own.
But why have these organizations reverted to traditional workplace and leadership models? Why would organizations choose to spend more money and time on exiting employees and backfilling roles, rather than gaining a better understanding of what their employees need to be productive? If organizations would like to successfully keep their talent, they must listen and adapt.
In addition to sharing core values with their employer, employees also want to be valued by their organization and one of the best ways that can be communicated to the employee is through flexibility. Studies have shown that inflexibility from employers hinders productivity. Leading empathetically and trusting your employee to get their work done leads to increased productivity and higher general wellbeing. I do not believe in the old notion that trust must be earned. Trust should be given. If you hired an employee on your team, it should be because you did your due diligence by way of behavioral interviews, technical tests, background and reference checks, appropriate onboarding, and necessary training; in which case, you should then trust them to get the job done.
If the employee struggles, ask why. For example, if an employee in your group is the sole caretaker of someone sick and they are asking for a schedule shift, would you deny it? If your answer is yes, why? Based on the employee’s answer, you adapt and take it from there. Yes, you – you as a leader must listen and adapt to help your team succeed. If they can get the same work done at the same performance level as they have in the past, what reason does one have to deny such a request?
Now, more than ever, successfully managing and retaining teams requires leading with intention by clearly communicating goals and expectations, and remembering to do so, first and foremost, with humility and empathy. A clear understanding of goals, expectations, and values, that help further productivity and cancel unwanted noise and bias. However, we as humans, make assumptions. Naïve realism, which is people’s belief (read: assumption) that they perceive the world objectively rather subjectively, is a flaw of the human condition, and we often see leaders think they are making realistic or pragmatic decisions, but rarely have they considered all available scenarios.
For this reason, it is important to communicate expectations of performance and values during the first week of employment. Consider utilizing a thoughtful and collaborative approach with a 30-60-90 day worksheet that aligns the employee and management on the goals and expectations for these early days with the organization. Usually, the employee will accept and embrace these expectations and values as their own as they genuinely want to find belonging within the company culture.
Employees that feel valued and share similar values are likely to work together in a more harmonious manner and management will excel because they better understand how to guide and motivate their team. Value-based organizations with clear communication, empathetic leadership, and reasonable flexibility will benefit from this more connected and engaged team, and the economic success that comes from lower turnover and increased productivity.
Kiran Sanghera, PHR, is the people & culture manager at Miller Kaplan, a top-100 CPA firm in the U.S. She has been leading organizations on their journey to a more flexible and empathetic culture for the last five years.
Learn more at millerkaplan.com.