“Every organisation is critically aware that investing in your management and your people is the key to succeeding in today’s market,” says Scott Blanchard, leadership expert and president of The Ken Blanchard Companies.
“Great companies have always been dedicated to creating great leaders and investing in their people. But there are a lot of other companies where that hasn't necessarily been a top priority—until now. Right now, every company is trying to be better. There's a higher need to act good, to do good, and to be good.”
Blanchard explains that many companies are taking this opportunity to build a better business.
“We’re making sure we're not just building the same business back to the way it was; we are building something better. I think there are a lot of people doing that.”
Improving communication by involving next level leaders
Blanchard points to efforts to dramatically ramp up the communication and involvement in the company.
“Zoom has allowed us to have a direct dialogue with an extended group of people, so we are getting more people involved in discussions. I think this has enabled us to take a better and more frequent pulse check on what's happening.
“We are also using a feedback tool, Waggl, that allows us to ask survey questions, crowdsource responses, and then present those responses back to the company for comments and reactions—all within one week.
“Highly ranked responses are moved to the top. Some of the feedback and responses are hard to hear. The survey is anonymous, so it’s an opportunity for people to share more directly some of the gripes they have. But we listen and we take action.
“For example, people said they are tired and they need a break. So we’ve inserted a handful of wellness days into the calendar that have been really well received. The goal is to have a three-day holiday weekend at least once a month—either they naturally fall or we add one in a month that didn’t have one. In the US, that has resulted in an extra day off in March, April, and August. It demonstrates a couple of things: 1.) We are listening. 2.) We value wellness. 3.) We’re taking action. It's a welcome new benefit that has come about directly because of the crowdsourcing.
Knowing what to do in a changeable environment can be challenging, says Blanchard.
“It’s complicated. The Great Resignation. The Great Regret. During the past two years, so many people have been experiencing their company's culture from a front row seat. And a lot of people have been thinking carefully about their own personal experience.
“What I think people are realising as they leave—and sometimes return—is that work is about more than just the money. There are other factors. That’s what today’s unsettled environment is asking us to consider: What is the thing that I valued that caused me to leave? And what are the things that I may have lost because I left that maybe I should have placed more value in?”
The role of managers
“Our research consistently points to the importance of a person’s manager in creating a winning environment for that person. If someone believes their manager has their back, it correlates directly to that person’s intention to perform at a high level, apply discretionary effort, stay with an organisation, and endorse the organisation as a good place to work.”
But a manager having your back is not the same as the manager being a pushover, says Blanchard.
“In many cases, if your manager has your back, they challenge you to be more than you thought you could be. They may ask you to generate more grit and determination and to work through things and deal with adversity. Sometimes they hold you to a higher set of standards and sometimes they challenge you to think of others before you think of yourself.
“One thing that's not talked about much is how people need to take responsibility for their own experience at work. A company can do everything possible to try to make a great environment for people, but, ultimately, people have to choose.
“At some point you have to realise that you’re not going to love a hundred percent of the things you have to do in your job a hundred percent of the time. But loving a few significant things about your job and your company makes everything worth it.”
Blanchard urges organisations to take a consistent approach to management.
“Organisations have a responsibility to put well trained managers in front of their people. If you're not doing that, you're allowing the natural variation in manager behaviour to operate within your company.
“The best run companies have a set of values and responsibilities that guide what good management looks like. They challenge leaders to behave in a way that's in service to people rather than self-serving. Personally, I don't know how you build a company, a culture, or a way to navigate all the craziness we're going through if you are not doing everything you can to put well prepared managers in front of your employees.
“You must prioritise and invest in developing your leaders. Communicate and instill the right mindset. And make sure people are taught, reinforced, and given feedback on the skills that support and reinforce that mindset.
Supportive HR practices
Blanchard cautions organisations to make sure HR practices and business systems don't put managers in a position to inadvertently create a situation where people don't feel like their manager cares about them.
“This can happen when managers are asked to implement a forced ranking of employees, or when some managers dole out pay increases solely based on performance review rather than a process that has more transparency and potentially some market data.
“What managers should be focused on is having good conversations with their people, clarifying goals, and providing support. Organisations need to invest in their managers’ capabilities and reinforce the kind of skill sets and behaviours people need to be most effective.”
“It’s important for people to feel good about the organisation they work for so they can bring the best part of themselves to work,” says Blanchard. “People want to work for a company and leaders they respect and are willing to endorse. They want a job that is worthwhile and meaningful. They want to have a relationship that’s workable with their manager and they want to have a good relationship with their peers.
“In the L&D space, we are standing at an important place and time. The winds are blowing in our direction. We have the technology to create powerful, human-driven learning experiences that help managers be more magnificent with their people within this sometimes confusing and ever-changing environment.”
About the authors:
David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies®. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series.