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Genuinely care – don’t be fake

How important is it for organisations, CEOs and their leadership teams to genuinely care for their people? In terms of achieving high levels of employee engagement and sustainable high performance it is critical.

Research has consistently shown that genuinely caring for your people is the single largest driver of employee engagement. That is, if you want to increase employee engagement the best thing you can do is to improve the ways you care for your people. Genuinely caring for your people is also Habit 5 of the 7 Business Habits that most differentiate high performance organisations from low performance ones.

If CEOs and senior leaders don’t genuinely care for their employees they will not be able to hide it. Fakes are easy to spot. So is authenticity. Both become even easier to assess under pressure or difficult circumstances.

Be genuine in your concern for employees

A statue under fire is a great metaphor for genuinely caring for your people. Why? Back in Roman times many sculptors would carefully fill the indents, chips or other mistakes they made with wax as they carved images in marble. Those images looked fine until the wax started to weep out of the cracks and indents in hot weather.

Buyers of expensive marble sculptures soon learnt to require their sculpture to be put under fire to determine whether it was the genuine article without wax or whether it was a fake. Employees can easily assess whether their CEO and senior leaders genuinely care for them or whether they are a fake.

Caring has many dimensions

Caring for your employees is not just about doing one or two things really well. It is a holistic concept with many dimensions. It goes to the core of the leader’s intentions and world view. If a leader truly cares for his other employees, it will be abundantly apparent. If not, it will also be apparent.

Care for employees is demonstrated in many ways, including actively listening to your employees and genuinely valuing their opinions. Again, it will be obvious to your employees if you value their opinions. If you value them, you’ll give them regular and constructive feedback and ensure that this is a crucial component of your organisation’s culture. You’ll also ensure that you develop a constructive and supportive organisational culture where employees are encouraged to reach their true potential and thrive.

You will also ensure that your organisation does not tolerate bullying and harassment, and that all employees are treated with the same dignity and respect.

A senior female executive was bullied and harassed. She reported it through the appropriate channels but nothing was done to support her or to deal with the perpetrator. After many months she had to take a significant break from work and never returned. It became clear to her that her employer did not care for her or other employees since it was made aware of the bullying and harassment and chose to do nothing about it. This ended up being very costly for the employers and very damaging to the employee and could have been so easily avoided.

Another way to demonstrate that you truly care for your people is to ensure your employees have an appropriate work-life balance. This can be backed by innovative flexible work arrangements which are supported by enabling technology and systems. This requires clear roles and goals and mutual employer-employee trust which unfortunately is absent in many work places.

Don’t undo years of great work

They say it takes a lifetime to establish your personal integrity but only a single moment to lose it. That is so true. It is similar to the perception of whether you care for your people. You must do multiple things well over an extended period to demonstrate care for your people. A wrong word or action to just one person can undo years of consistent great work. People will notice and the word will spread like wildfire. People are always watching you!

Treat your employees with respect and dignity not because you think people are watching you but because it is the right thing to do. Be careful, for example, how you terminate an employee or senior executive. Ensure you show respect so they can maintain their dignity. Ideally, all your ex-employees will be good advocates for you and your organisation after their departure.

Many organisations have found restructuring and cost cutting necessary in recent years. The way this restructuring is handled, the communication and messaging around it, and the way employees being retrenched are dealt with and supported will rightly have a significant impact on the perceptions of the remaining employees. Don’t blow all your consistent great work over years with a poorly thought through, managed and implemented restructure program.

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