Posted by Robert Half on 02 June 2014
Every business has leaders, whether they are global multinationals, medium-sized firms or small start-up companies. There needs to be somebody with their hands fully on the reins - to devise and implement strategy, outline the vision for the company and get everybody pulling together in the same direction.
The way business leaders achieve their aims differs from organisation to organisation. There are a host of different leadership and management styles to choose from, including authoritarian, democratic, paternalistic and laissez-faire. Each individual running a business is free to develop their own approach.
But however they choose to lead, the people in charge at the top of the company need to ensure they secure buy-in from their employees. Unless chief executives, managing directors and other key board members are able to engage with their workforce, and motivate employees to give their all on a daily basis, the business will struggle to reach its full potential.
Visibility is important for employees
One of the ways business leaders can engage with their workforce is by making themselves visible at work and accessible to people throughout the organisation. Research conducted by the People 1st Training Company and ICM found that almost a third (31%) of survey respondents believe this can provide a boost to overall company performance. Of those surveyed, 28% said they feel better about their job and the company they work for if they hear from their boss from time to time.
Yet the study revealed that more than a quarter (27%) of employees say they never see the main decision makers within their company. In larger organisations the problem is even more acute, with 43% having no access to their boss. Clearly business leaders are under significant time pressure, and have important responsibilities to focus on, but there is a danger of becoming entirely disconnected from the people working on the front line.
Those who are able to engage with employees have the opportunity to exert greater influence on the people working for them, something which can help create a positive company culture. For younger members of staff in particular, business leaders can serve as positive role models - becoming somebody to aspire to and emulate during the course of their careers.
How to engage with employees
In smaller organisations, where employees are all based under one roof, it should not be difficult for business leaders to communicate with low-ranking staff in person, either as a group or on a one-on-one basis. Simply by coming out of their office, and showing their presence in the workplace, they can create a more positive impression with employees. Some leaders may even choose to work in communal areas where appropriate, rather than behind closed doors, to display a greater sense of togetherness.
When employees are distributed across various sites in different locations, it may be more difficult to be visible in person. But modern technology gives business leaders the chance to be visible in employees' email inboxes, on company blogs and social media feeds, and even on video conferences broadcast over the internet. Addressing the workforce regularly through these communication channels ensures they maintain a public profile, rather than being viewed as a mysterious figure who works behind the scenes.
Communicating regularly with employees gives the CEO or MD the opportunity to reinforce the vision and values of the organisation, update employees on the latest developments and introduce changes that may be taking place. Communicating with the workforce in this way - rather than delegating the responsibility to middle managers - should reinforce the importance of the message they are delivering.
Greater leadership visibility can help strengthen relationships within the workplace, and help employees feel fully part of the organisation. As well as being good for morale, this can potentially boost productivity and improve the performance of teams. Happy and engaged employees are inclined to stay longer with organisations, helping to minimise employee turnover and maximise output.