There are a number of noticeable benefits experienced by organisations that prioritise leadership development. Above all others, the one advantage that is likely to capture the attention of organisations around the globe is the impact that promoting and developing your leadership talent can have on employee engagement.
In another post, we covered the topic of employee engagement and why it is so critical a concept for modern, thriving businesses. The next question is how leaders — specifically in the form of line managers — can boost employee engagement levels throughout a company. How does an employee’s relationship with their managers result in improved engagement? And how does a focus on leadership development guarantee an increased likelihood of a content, engaged workforce?
In 2015, a Gallup poll revealed that managers account for a 70% variance in employee engagement levels. Managers have also been termed the “missing link in employee engagement”. To top it all off, in highly-engaged organisations, leaders are regarded as nearly twice as effective as leaders in low-engagement organisations.
A poor leader is one who never takes on board the ideas of others; one who blames any resulting failures on those around them. Leadership development programmes reinforce the idea that a leader is not above his or her team. They are open to varying — and even opposing — opinions.
Employees need to feel valued. They want their ideas to be respected and considered. To attain high levels of engagement, leaders should actively encourage others to contribute ideas that might propel the organisation forward. If appropriate these same ideas should then be put into action. Indeed, just given the opportunity to air one’s views can be enough, so long as valid reasons are given as to why actioning their idea wasn’t appropriate or possible at the current time. This will go a long way to making your employees feel like an integral part of a larger team.
It has long been known that honesty and communication drive engagement. When leaders fail to connect with the people they’re trying to lead, they end up with a team that only comes to work for a pay slip. For this reason, communication carries a large weighting on any worthwhile leadership development programme.
Great leaders offer insightful feedback, they take a ‘bigger picture’ approach and explain how employee goals align with overall company objectives. They also operate an open-door policy and are visible throughout the office, demonstrating their approachability. Leaders who make the effort to give employees the support they deserve ultimately benefit from an increase in engagement, as well as other vital performance indicators, such as productivity, profitability and reduced absenteeism.
As Forbes puts it, transparency in an organisation isn’t just good ethics. It’s good business. In fact, transparency has been listed as a critical leadership trait that helps enable employees to do their best, as it promotes trust and discretionary effort.
Effective leaders are aware that in order to truly engage their team, they need to be honest, while communicating any pertinent changes with regards to the company’s vision and values. They need to keep their teams involved in decision making and help their employees see a long-term and mutually beneficial future within your company. Transparency in leadership helps employees feel a valued part of a wider, well-functioning team.
Development and opportunities for advancement are key components of employee engagement. Top performing candidates won’t be satisfied stagnating in their current position for years on end. They want to be challenged, they want to become involved in other areas of the business, they want to improve and for some, they want to progress.
With this in mind, a leadership development programme is a critical employee engagement decision. It demonstrates to employees that top performance will be recognised and rewarded. It also shows that management will not simply hire externally, should a leadership position arise. Not only is this a good idea in terms of employee engagement, but organisations who invest in their existing talent and promote from within stand to save a substantial amount of time and money.