Many of us have worked solely from home during the pandemic. Organizational leaders are working hard to get people back to the office and plant floors, while some organizations are trialing a hybrid approach.
However, in all this array of work arrangements, one thing has emerged that was not expected. Employees missed seeing their senior and executive leaders. Nearly 30% of employees during recent focus groups at a healthcare organization suggested leadership presence as one way they could improve employee recognition. Sometimes, the absence of senior leaders has taken a negative toll.
What are you doing to address leaders who appear to be missing in action? There are several ways organizations can make their leader’s presence known virtually and in person, but it’s important to know what works best for your organization:
Many organizations, especially during the pandemic, tried to create a collective presence of their leaders. They had individual leaders communicate to all staff through technology or other communication channels.
- Video Conferencing: Town Hall, or all-hands meetings are now routinely done through a preferred video conferencing service. This allows employees to tune in and be a part of things with their peers.
- Hybrid Meetings: Conduct hybrid meetings where some staff on location are in person and others are still joining in via video conferencing.
- Newsletters: You can gain some small insights from your leaders as they write a few paragraphs in your digital employee newsletter and keep your population aware of things happening within the organization.
- Videos: Some leaders have aided the communication planning for their organization by creating videos shown online and on screens at different locations internally.
- Broadcasts: Organizations use video conferencing technology to produce live broadcasted sessions with various leaders. They use these opportunities for open-mic sessions where leaders respond to previously submitted questions. Leaders will also answer live “ask me anything” questions from the employee audience online.
- Podcasts: Similar to video broadcasts and teleconferencing, the communication planners for some organizations take the audio tracks from these videos and turn them into audio podcasts. Some have edited these using a host and then inserting clips from the original video messaging to address specific employee concerns.
The challenge with collective presence is that it’s what many employees have experienced over the past two years. For collective presence to be effective, you need it coupled with personal presence. It is not a case of either/or, it should be about “and” with having both.
In-Person Visits: Employees are being vocal about not having seen senior or executive leaders in a long time. Different industries have hired new people during the pandemic. These new staff have never met or seen their executive leaders. And if they did, it was often behind masks. Make it a point for your leaders (new or existing) to visit and connect with staff.
Recognition Giving: There is nothing that can replicate the wonder and gratitude of being recognized by a senior leader. While most employees say their most memorable recognition comes from their manager (28%) a senior leader or CEO also ranks highly (24%, Gallup). This can be for individual and team recognition. Recognition delivered by an executive leader means a lot.
Asking for Input: Senior leaders need to spend a percentage of their time interacting with staff. Before instituting a major change, they should solicit the staff opinions. Sit down with employees in informal focus groups or even chat in the cafeteria. Find out the impact pending decisions would have on people before implementing.
Resolving Problems: Nothing beats active listening in person versus through technology. A leader can show genuine non-verbal signs of concern often missed through video. Senior leaders can either direct employees where to take their problem or promise to take the situation back with them and return and report back with a solution.
Offering Help: One thing that employees tell us is how nice it would be if leaders offered to help them. This is best for leaders with backgrounds in the same professional service or practice as the employee. Getting into the trenches and getting their hands dirty in the thick and thin of things speaks volumes. Leaders must learn to ask how they can help.
Caring Concern: One of the most powerful effects of personal presence is showing care and concern for employees. Whether celebrating positive life events together like promotions, marriages, and births, or mourning losses of loved ones, sickness, and personal tragedies. Leaders showing up elevates morale for the individual and all those close to that team member.
Maintaining a personalized presence is essential for senior and executive leaders. Organizations can help executives and the senior leadership team measure their time in person with various groups and departments. Leaders should converse with employees, listen, and get back to them. Many staff don’t know their leaders anymore. Make this focus on personalized presence a tool for communicating deserved recognition face-to-face. Have leaders commend and praise employees for their contributions to the organization.