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5 Tips for Sustaining Employee Engagement and Retention

According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace 2023, low engagement could cost the global economy $8.8 trillion. But what is the root cause of low engagement? Experts say it's destructive leadership styles. Despite years of investment in leadership development, the low rates of engagement remain persistent.

This blog explores the top five obstacles that leaders face when it comes to developing constructive leadership. If you're looking for insights and solutions to improving employee engagement and retention, this blog is for you!

In the past month our CEO and I have met top leaders from several enterprises with 10K or more employees and revenues of more than $1B. When asked what one trend their CEO would change if they could in the coming year, it was declining engagement that leads to “quiet quitting” that leads to increased attrition and the rising expenses of hiring and training. CHROs and Chiefs of People, Talent, Change Management are feeling the financial impact and pain of lack of retention. While it hurts now, the ripple effect on business goals, to increase productivity and profits, projects a dismal view of the future.

In Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023, the research on employee engagement and its impact on productivity and profits shows a worldwide picture that is gloomy-- they estimate that low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion.

The question underneath low engagement is “What is the root cause?” The data shows the biggest contributor to lack of full engagement is destructive leadership. Over the past 50 years businesses have spent billions on trainings, workshops, programs, online learning, conferences and more. Yet the low rates of engagement and job satisfaction persist.

What is in the way of learning and in many cases, un-learning, how to become a constructive leader?

Here are five obstacles from leaders when asked about hesitation of investment in their leaders and culture:

  1. “My team does not have the bandwidth to do the work of learning, changing and growing.”

  2. “We are so siloed that it is impossible to get the teams or their leaders in alignment on what needs changing and what’s the program to use.”

  3. “We’ve grown so fast and large, we need Organizational Change structure before we can do anything.”

  4. “We’re putting all our investment from training and development into recruitment and hiring. There’s not enough to go around.”

  5. “We are lucky to fill the position and sometimes we simply can’t be choosy on traits or shortcomings. We are hoping for as little harm occurs until we can recruit better talent.”

While each of these obstacles seemed real. let’s look at each of these realities through the coaching tool of “Yes and….”.

1. Leaders are indeed very busy. And… growing competencies and developing professionally, when tailored to the organization, should not be separate projects, new homework, or framed as another task piled on an already overwhelmed and overworked manager. At inviteCHANGE, the solution entitled Accelerate and Scale Coaching is versatile, agile and has a low time investment with high positive impact and a strong correlation to strengthening managers to better lead and engage their team members. As time is the only commodity we have, according to Warren Buffet, leveraging it, while producing constructive leadership, is a solid win for the organization. ASC Generative Coaches support leaders as they practice, improve, and integrate new skills into their leadership and change occurs immediately. This gives the leader confidence to take greater risks and be more authentic in communication, collaboration and direction, when it’s genuinely needed. For a more in depth description, here’s a link to a Client Study from Microsoft.

2. Silos are real, they are frequently separating, rather than simply specializing, and if that is your organization’s structure, you’ve got to start somewhere. Be aware you are playing the long game and it will take years of consistent investment, commitment and belief that the culture shift that’s desired is worth it. What has worked with many enterprises is a pilot program for one or all silos, depending on the impetus for improving engagement and constructive leadership.

Be willing to start small, attract and curate C-Suite sponsorship, and share progress and results as an invitation, rather than a competition, to other key influencers. As constructive leadership grows and seeds, some employees may move to other silos through promotion and share their experiences and progress. The effective behavior skills, like Generative Conversation, consistently produce higher performing teams. Attrition rates are lower and HR has rare, if any, complaints on bad management. These numbers reflect the power of the programs. The enterprise moves from pilot programs to a full-fledged investment in their people, ultimately creating a culture of generative leadership in less than a decade. This will increase profits, yes and…it contributes to the physical, mental, emotional health and enjoyment of their people all over the globe.

3. Growth through acquisition, market expansion, and pure successful product where demand is outpacing production, dictates organizational change with supportive structures. Yes and….we applaud the vision for what’s needed and can partner to stay in relationship while the OD work gets put into place. The next step is to create a Leadership Map that identifies the gap in skills vis a vis to the strategy. Working with an inviteCHANGE account manager to select programs and coaching, customers address what learning supports leadership skill attainment. Generative Conversation followed by Accelerate and Scale Coaching is a combination of programs that magnetizes full engagement, retention, and personal and professional development. Research tells us that the Millennial and Gen Z workforce are passionate about ongoing learning and purpose in their work. Thus, making learning a key tenet of your overall business plan is warranted. This “grit” or tenacity for development becomes a competitive advantage in attracting, retaining, and empowering people.

4. The shift in investment from developing leaders to attracting workers is a struggle over wages, workers, and keeping the machines running and the trucks moving. The Yes and… here is moving from the trenches into the front office of the senior leaders, who recognize the “weeds” from a higher point of view. If focus on sourcing workers continues to be the reason to permit destructive leadership to exist, what is the true future of the organization? At what point will a competitor figure out better solutions beyond cash hiring bonuses. Employees—no matter the position desire two things: Belonging and Autonomy. It beckons the chicken or the egg story. “What choice comes first and how will we shift the course we’re on?” Leadership at the top could use Generative Coaching for Individuals and Generative Coaching for Teams to reveal what is required individually and collectively to become the embodiment of principles and values on the website. When the desired outcome is to eclipse the cycle of destructive leadership, it takes commitment, determination, and persistence. As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

5. Yes, it’s challenging to source positive leaders in a competitive marketplace. Curiosity arises and asks--how are you currently working with the high potentials or standouts you have? Are their unique contributions recognized and is there a clear path to promotion? What is the investment from onboarding day 1 to day 365? At inviteCHANGE, we have a customer we’ve worked with for several years who has each new hire meet with one of our Generative Coaches in the first month. They take the Tilt 365 character inventory called True Tilt Profile. It supports on going access to their self- awareness. They learn about themselves and how to appreciate the different working styles at the organization which leads to better self-management and social skills. The teams schedules a ½ day workshop where they can share their current talents, and contribution while seeing there’s more to explore and choose. They identify their next learning and how they will support each other to “tilt” into a new strength that supports their business/team goal. Several people over time have been promoted. Honing their generative leadership skills is an active part of the ongoing succession plan.

There is not time to hire a destructive manager and hope that no harm occurs. Incivility has disastrous and expensive consequences. Hiring or tolerating destructive leadership is like throwing money into a paper shredder. HR or TD leaders, take the time, ask your teams, and reward team members who are taking on management tasks until the role is filled.

Recognize the talent in your organization and invest in their ongoing learning and becoming.

There will always be reasons for lack of investment or the timing of coaching and programs. It is a mindset that can be closed rather than generative. Yes, the reasons sound reasonable, and….look at the landscape of leadership in 2023. We have much to heal and the rewards are high for those who invest in their people. At inviteCHANGE, we partner to explore and identify how to navigate your exciting vision and passion for constructive leadership.

Want to learn how much destructive leadership is costing your organization? Read our FREE industry paper, then book time with Sarah to walk through your enterprise numbers!

Sarah Graves, PCC

Sarah passionately and practically pursues the development of leaders through intentional, organic growth. She emboldens leaders to create an environment where management is expansive, willing to move with agility beyond comfort zones, and to champion the individual and collective genius within the organization. With teams in transition she inspires connection, realignment and forward progress within the awkward movements of the changing landscape. Her belief is that coaching is as essential an element for an organization as the product or service the company produces. “An employee who grows personally, grows professionally” and coaching seeds growth.
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