Leadership lies at the crux of any organization be it a small enterprise or a business empire. It can either lead to the success of your company by maximizing employee productivity or put the business in jeopardy.
India’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some structural changes in the functioning of every business. This second wave has intensified the challenges and increased the responsibility of a leader to build a stronger employee experience that meets changing expectations. Unquestionably, it has never been more crucial than now to mentor and support your workforce. Being empathetic towards employees, introducing employee-friendly policies, and adapting to new models of operation for their business – have appeared to be important factors for current leaders to consider during these tough times.
While every business has different needs and every leader has their unique style of management, here are some key leadership qualities that I believe can help people better navigate more uncertainties going forward.
Supporting organization through the changes
Change can be daunting for anyone. It is one thing that remains constant for any organization, be it as a result of a market change or an internal change. Restricted access to the workplace by the aftermath of COVID-19 has forced employees to work remotely. Employees have faced several issues working remotely, including a lack of IT services infrastructure at home. It has also been a challenge for Human Resource leaders to keep their employees productive, efficient, and engaged during this course of time. This has urged many leaders to create a long-term remote-working strategy and a concrete plan to strategically execute work-from-home practices in the coming years. For the leader to effectively continue managing change in the organization, they need to be agile, make decisions swiftly and be aware of current business needs. It is also necessary to communicate with peers starting from junior to senior level to offer reassurance and keep them informed.
Supporting employees with policies and welfare programs
A leader plays a great role in supporting an employee’s career development through regular training and mentoring programs, in turn adding to higher retention value, especially in this new environment. Training must include digital learning, soft skills, and vertical-specific programs. It is essential to invest in the continued training for your employees, and regularly train to improve performance and for future prospects. Further, including frequent virtual meet-ups can act as a catalyst in improving workplace engagement and creating a healthy environment.
With increased social isolation being a new normal in the remote working culture, the pandemic has taken a toll on employee’s mental health, often leaving them unmotivated and distressed. This is the time for leaders to show support by giving employees flexibility to take care of their families. Regular check-ins of seniors can also be helpful in giving reassurance for them. Counseling sessions to help support employees’ mental wellness may be offered. They can re-look at current policies and consider support for vaccinations and/or increasing the limit on mobile and internet reimbursements, as employees may be using these services more during this challenging time.
Inclusivity and Diversity at Workplace
A workplace with a diverse workforce and people from different backgrounds and ethnicity has the largest pool of skills set. However, in India lack of female representation is still a concern, especially in senior-level positions. According to the Egon Zehnder Global Diversity Report 2020, women currently hold 17 percent of board positions in corporate India. To bridge the visible gap, leaders should consider making significant investments in women employees and building a more flexible, balanced and compassionate workplace.
To help make the organization more gender-inclusive, there should be a zero-tolerance policy on any unsolicited comment on gender or ethnicity and a check on unconscious biases. More opportunities should be created for women and a policy of no pay disparity amongst employees in the same position. Separate maternity and paternity leaves should be given to employees expecting a child. A leader should recognize the challenges and give child care support to working mothers along with special training sessions for the time missed during maternity leaves. Most importantly, there should be no differentiation in deciding the promotion and growth of an employee. Gender representation should not just be on paper but should be practiced at the workplace.
Keeping people inspired and motivated
A transparent working system and frequent communication can go a long way in building confidence and crafting a positive and conducive environment. Employees’ health and wellbeing should be a priority for every organization. A leader needs to keep the group together to fulfill a common goal while being cognizant of everyone’s independent goals and aspirations. An employee should relate to the work, culture, company’s vision and should feel an important part of the organization.
Every leader should find their most effective style of leading employees, that suits them and their business needs. Having a professional and compassionate leader possessing the necessary skill set to manage and operate the organization, plays a huge role to ensure the success and growth of the company.