The concept of meaning from a talent perspective helps establish a unitary sense of identity by which organizations and teams operate. It’s why we choose to work for a company, or with a team, or for a leader. The strength of an employee’s sense of belonging depends, in part, on how meaning is expressed on a regular basis.
Talent professionals are tasked with creating strategies that identify top talent, measure employee performance and encourage leaders to engage with their teams regularly, but often do not incorporate the concept of meaning relative to employee well-being.
Gone are the days when leaders are told to keep employee exchanges purely about business, encouraged not to ask personal questions and avoid sharing anything personal at all costs. That paradigm cannot and should not exist in today’s world, where employees need to be treated as individuals while being held accountable to the same standards.
It is natural for many leaders, particularly new ones, to shy away from such engagement for fear of not knowing how to address or help the employee through what can be deeply vulnerable moments. Yet, talent professionals have a unique opportunity to model vulnerability and be the change agents for the business unit leaders and the employees they support.
As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded that the value of finding meaning in the moment of a human exchange cannot be understated.
The best talent management practitioners often work towards creating spaces and frameworks for leaders to engage in regular one-on-one conversations with their employees. They also work diligently to help leaders transform those conversations from status updates and metrics-driven discussions to establishing and cultivating connection and understanding the employee perspective.
Suppose talent professionals are struggling to educate and coach their leaders about having meaningful conversations at work. In that case, one of the best places to start this journey is by looking at our own experiences, how we communicate concerns, ideas and challenges, and most importantly, how we feel when our voices are heard. How does meaning show up for you? What do you value as an employee in your organization? How does your organization tell the story of the employee experience?
As a learning or HR professional, it is important to build, recommend and publish content that spotlights how employees have grown and been developed through one-on-one conversations, which can be transformative for all. We all have a part to play, and collaboration can foster brilliant new ideas relative to employee experiences and well-being.
Creating safer spaces for leaders
One of the best ways to change organizational culture is at the leader level, not because it is easy, but because it has the most influence on real change. While talent frameworks and competencies are an essential part of any talent strategy, more support and training provided to leaders at all levels of the organization gives employees a fighting chance to feel as though their company recognizes the value they bring to the table.
If we believe a leader’s skill set contributes to organizational culture, we must also believe providing safer spaces for leaders to practice, make mistakes and course-correct their leadership style is key to facilitating that change. Creating these safer spaces for leaders to be vulnerable, whether formal or informal, should be a priority for L&D and talent teams in the immediate future.
As talent professionals work to create cultures of belonging, the need to assess where the unique opportunities lie will be specific to each organization. The beauty and power of transformative conversations are rooted in trust and respect. When those conversations have meaning and employees feel heard, they will feel comfortable enough to share new ideas, new opportunities and new processes that might help carry the organization into the next wave of success.