If you build a culture of health and safety, they will come
Are you losing highly skilled leaders and having difficulty finding candidates to fill vacancies?
If so, you may need to examine whether leaders in your organization feel that you value them and are committed to caring for their health, safety and well-being.
An article published in Forbes a few months ago highlighted that C-suite executives are feeling overwhelmed and overworked, and if they don’t feel that their organization cares about their health and well-being, they’re leaving to find one that does. The article states, “…skyrocketing stress levels, punishing schedules, and toxic cultures are driving even prominent leaders out of coveted positions.”
Lack of support, unrealistic demands, politics, backstabbing and prioritizing self-interests and results over people can take a serious toll on leaders’ mental health and push them to leave.
Those at the highest levels of the organization must address this issue and ensure that leadership recruitment, development and retention is a strategic priority. Otherwise, your organization’s sustainability, growth and success will be at risk.
Choose your leaders wisely and treat them well
Gallop reported that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, and companies fail to choose the candidates with the right talent for the jobs 82% of the time. A Career Building survey reported that most workers never want to be a manager and that only one-third (34%) said they want to be a manager.
Leaders’ organize and oversee work, support workers, and ensure standards are met to achieve organizational goals. If poor leadership prevails, it can cost your organization money. Another Gallop report estimates that a lack of leadership capability costs U.S. corporations up to $550 billion annually. Financial Express reported that poor leadership could result in 7% of a firm’s turnover, 4% lower revenue growth, and lower customer satisfaction.
Tips for retaining, attracting and supporting leaders
The Corporate Governance Institute notes, “In the same way that boards approach other corporate risks, it is important they treat mental health – including the mental health of CEOs and their executive team – as a corporate risk that must be identified and managed effectively.”
The first step is to develop a culture of health and safety. The 2022 Health and Safety Leadership Survey revealed that there was near universal agreement that a culture of health and safety is critical to attracting and retaining talent, and 98 percent of respondents agreed it is key to sustainability.
Examine leadership in your organization — Conduct research to understand what support leaders need what would-be leaders need to feel confident about stepping up for promotions. Make sure people feel safe to offer suggestions and don’t fear being judged. You might seek help from an outside firm to lead focus groups to capture insights on culture, perceptions of leadership, and motivators. With this information, you can develop a plan to address barriers and deterrents.
Be clear about expectations of leaders — CEOs who are vulnerable, humble, and display courage are the most effective for inspiring and building trust. In his landmark book Good to Great, Jim Collins defined Level 5 leaders as most effectively displaying a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. CEOs be clear about how they expect leaders to behave and document expectations.
Promote accountability and learning to drive out fear and silence — Leaders should role-model desired behaviours and avoid judging when mistakes are made to help one another learn and grow.
Create a leadership value proposition — Besides money, what are the benefits of being a leader in your organization? Do you offer development, networking, growth opportunities, and flexibility. Do leaders feel they are in a position to influence decisions and strategic direction? With a clear value proposition, your organization can ensure it has the right people in place to be successful. It’s also important to re-evaluate regularly to ensure leaders’ experiences are aligned to the value proposition.
Develop a leadership success plan — Examine your processes for selecting and onboarding leaders – internally through promotions and in external recruitment efforts. Evaluate performance management, coaching and leader development regularly. Make adjustments, if needed, to ensure that rewards and recognition, career mobility, education and learning and leader health, safety and well-being are part of your value proposition. Gather feedback to make sure the leader lifecycle is working and adding value.
Creating a leadership value proposition and managing leader succession plans proactively will go a long way toward building trust. You will demonstrate your commitment to supporting and protecting leaders and employees and create a workplace they feel proud of and want to come to each day.
Get to know the author – Dr. Bill Howatt