Do you trust your employees?

What skills will you need to perfect to thrive in 2021?

Do you trust your employees?

As we manoeuvre out of the COVID-19 pandemic, employer’s eyes are set on the future - in particular, the skills needed to thrive in 2021. Traits that weren’t typically associated with the C-suite are now coming to the fore, with senior executives poised to lead in a whole new way.

HRD caught up with Chris Mullen, executive director of The Workforce Institute at UKG, and speaker at upcoming webinar Biggest Workplace Trends of 2021. Mullen revealed to us the characteristics and abilities leaders will need to perfect going into 2021.

“The first skill is undoubtedly trust,” explained Mullen. “What does trust mean in relation to overall success? In our recent report, we found that 64% of employees say that trust has a direct impact on their sense of belonging at work. Obviously, if people have no sense of belonging in their company then they’re likely to leave – the converse is also true. Trust has such a huge impact on the businesses bottom line.

Read more: How to create an inclusive workplace

“Furthermore, 58% of employees we surveyed said that a total lack of trust affects their career choices – with 24% of those people having left a company as a direct result.”

This emphasis on trust is certainly something HR has always been passionate about – however, it seems to have taken a global pandemic for the C-suite to wake up and see the reality. Emotional intelligence, again not a very ‘traditional’ leadership value, is now essential to organizational structure. If an employee feels mistrusted, especially in this new remote working environment, they’ll look for greener pastures.

Read more: UKG among Forbes' Best Employers 2021

“Another issue for leaders is maintaining personal connections in remote work,” continued Mullen. “Prior to the pandemic, when everyone was in the office, we didn’t have to make a conscious effort to schedule meet ups. We’d simply bump into people in the workspace and build rapport that way. Now, we have to be way more cognizant and more intentional about how we build trust. I don’t think managers ever really sat down and though – ‘right, how do I build some trust within my team?’ Now, it’s absolutely a necessity.”

So, what does Mullen advise for remote trust building exercises? Well, it’s all about assessing each situation individually and regularly.

“Ask your team what they’d like to see you do. How often do they want you to check in? What are their personal needs? The other piece to this is assessing what you should talk about in these team meetings. Does it have to be all about work? With my team, one of the things we started doing during the pandemic was a sunshine and clouds call every Monday morning. We don’t’ even talk about work – we just do a 30-minute catch up in which I ask them their weekend highlights – and even what didn’t go so well.”

Following this, Mullen recommends perfecting stress management and self-care practices. The past few months have taken their tole on both employees are their managers, with many leaders wondering how exactly they can do their own jobs when they’re feeling so jaded and exhausted. In that vein, Mullen strongly recommends practicing some self-care.

“As a manager, are you encouraging your people to look after themselves?” asked Mullen. “You need to start having authentic conversations around personal wellbeing – reach out to your employees if you think they’re suffering in silence.

“Right now, another of the big hitters I'm starting to see is people being on video all the time. Is that appropriate for every meeting? There’s a lot of research coming out on that talks about or video fatigue. This is really starting to impact employee wellbeing. When I do one-on-ones with my team, I don’t make them turn on their video. It’s much nicer to chat over the phone when you’re having an afternoon stroll.”

Finally, Mullen emphasised the importance of fostering a real relationship with your team – one which extends beyond the confines of work.

“In another survey, we found that 70% of employees globally say the relationship with their manager is an extremely or very important factor when deciding to remain with the organization,” he told HRD. “This isn’t necessarily huge news, but it does confirm that as a manager you’re one of the most integral roles in the organization. Afterall, individuals may come to a company for the opportunities, but they’re definitely staying, or leaving, because of their leader.

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