By Jane Turlo, Executive Director Ambulatory Imaging, Providence Clinical Network
Hearing those words can be a blessing or thrust you into panic mode, and with the changes in our world over the last three years, leaders are hearing them more and more. One of the most spotlighted areas in the work unit has been finding, attracting, and retaining top talent. Once you find top talent, how can you ensure a lasting employee-employer relationship? The answers come in many forms, such as compensation, schedules, education, but I believe the main driver is leadership engagement.
Engagement starts with genuine interest and communication. Ask your team how they prefer to regularly connect with you, then implement an agreed-upon structure. Whether it is weekly one on one, monthly staff meetings, video calls, or all of the above, scheduling touch bases starts to build the foundation of commitment. With remote meetings now being the norm, it is more important than ever to be present and focused when meeting with employees, and even though you may have a lot of “things” to do, recognize that a large part of leadership is taking time with employees, and having a pulse on their work and work environment. I’m not talking about micromanaging or knowing their duties in detail; I’m talking about understanding their perspectives. Keep in mind, as employees learn from you, you can also learn from them. When this dynamic is formed, it fosters strength, cohesiveness, and effective performance, which ultimately leads to longer tenure.
When employees are heard, acknowledged, respected, and allowed to be a part of the solution, the brand, customer service, reputation, internal dynamics, financial performance all flourish, as does the leader.
It is our obligation as leaders to recognize the temperature of our teams; is engagement thriving or is disengagement creeping in? With this in mind, we know fires and last-minute deadlines come up constantly for leaders, so rescheduling connection time may be necessary, but do not make a habit of this. When leaders continually reschedule, postpone, or are late for employee meetings, or worse, appear preoccupied, or disengaged, this eventually will result in employee apathy and mistrust. You can gain valuable intel and strengthen transparency by showing up, asking questions about general well-being, professional barriers and opportunities, and career aspirations. Building action plans to address obstacles and prospects, along with follow-through, leads to accountability and credibility. I cannot stress enough that taking time to interact with your team and creating a culture of communication and transparency will help you excel at your role, create a trusted workforce, and enhance organizational performance.
There is no doubt involved employees can be your greatest asset to positively influence co-workers and help foster an engaged work unit, so it is as important to focus on engaged employees as it is on the disengaged. When we pay less attention to the outstanding workers, we risk creating apathy and potentially losing valuable team members. Disengaged behaviors need to be addressed expeditiously, so make sure to use your human resource partners to move the process along. Discovering the root cause of employee detachment is imperative to turn around unwanted conduct or poor team dynamics, and whether there are one or several teammates involved, taking the time to meet individually, as well as in a team setting may be beneficial. Clearly, if you are responsible for many staff, it is unrealistic to meet with every person, but developing expectations across your team, work unit, and organization about the importance of employee engagement, is the best way to ensure a consistent approach across all leadership levels. In turn, this tactic will continue to enhance how employees view the leadership team.
When diving into disengagement, listen and carefully understand the issue(s). For example, if employees are struggling in their roles, partner on a plan to provide support, training, or if warranted, design a performance improvement plan. If the disinterest comes from being unhappy working for the organization, find out the reasons why and try to work toward a solution, but if that doesn’t work, you may have to help them move on. If management, you or another, is contributing to the divide, engage human resources, the appropriate chain of command, and discuss candidly. Leadership must keep an open mind and carefully assess each situation, because the disengaged employees may not be the root cause, their behaviors may be the result of something bigger; it could even be you.
It is not difficult to understand that engagement is a big part of a high-functioning operation, and it starts with leadership. When employees are heard, acknowledged, respected, and allowed to be a part of the solution, the brand, customer service, reputation, internal dynamics, financial performance all flourish, as does the leader.