No substitute for leadership
Employee experience – what it is like for me working here – has been cited as one of the hot topics for leaders’ consideration, overtaking engagement, to ensure the best people stay with us and can do their best work.
Many organisations provide the working environment, the development and health and well-being programmes, facilities (think on-site gym, or creche) and latitude (autonomy, flexible working, devolved decision-making) that enable employees to flourish in work and in their lives beyond.
Whether we talk about experience or engagement though, the crucial factor at the heart of organisations and people bringing their best selves to their work is culture and that’s our responsibility as leaders.
The physical office or workplace environment matters, having health and well-being programmes in place too. But they aren’t the things that make the difference to whether people really show up or not. That’s down to relationships. The relationship I have with the company’s purpose and does it help me make meaning of my work? The relationship I have with my colleagues. The relationship I have with my line manager. And in these relationships do I have a sense of belonging, of feeling valued and trusted, of having someone concerned with my development, of having a say in how I work?
As leaders, at whatever level, we have a massive impact on how people experience the workplace. It is often said that people don’t leave their jobs they leave their managers so investing in these relationships is an essential element of the leader role.
If we haven’t given our people the opportunity to align with a meaningful purpose (our contribution to the wider world). And if we aren’t making ourselves available, setting clear expectations and positive examples, extending trust, helping them develop and removing obstacles to them achieving, the physical environment or a well-stocked benefits offer won’t fill the gap.
So, the question we really need to reflect on isn’t what’s my/your experience of work but what’s my/your human to human experience of work?