18 May 2024

Value your team as much as your customers

Executive Leadership
| The European | Barbara Stöttinger

The current business climate demands that leaders nurture talent through an emphasis on support and creativity, says Barbara Stöttinger of the WU Executive Academy

In business, leaders often find themselves walking a tightrope, juggling multiple priorities in pursuit of success. In most cases, at the forefront of their concerns are typically their customers – understanding their needs, meeting their demands, and ensuring their loyalty. Yet, in the relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction, it is easy for leaders to overlook a critical component of their organisation: their own teams. 

Leaders need to pay as much attention to their teams, as they do their customers, especially as we have an ongoing skills shortage. As the year unfolds there is potential for this to get worse, making it more important than ever to provide support, and a healthy working environment for your employees.

It’s a common occurrence that employees will get distracted by the challenges surrounding them, or even lose the spring in their step. Naturally, as their leader you will not be able to eliminate all the worries that might plague your team members, what you can do though is to create a motivating and supporting environment that steers your team towards the right goals, even in times of difficulty. 

Listen and learn  

How can you do this? There’s three ways you can. Firstly, don’t shy away from discussing tough issues, solving tricky problems together with your employees creates trust – and nothing could be more important during hard times. 

Secondly, you need to be creative when it comes to motivating your employees. Sometimes, a promotion or a raise is not an option. In this situation it is best to just ask the person upfront what they want, what would motivate them, and how you can support them towards their goals. The fact you are simply listening to them, and showing that you’re trying to support them will do more than you think. 

This brings me to the next point, help your team to stay focused by simply having a conversation regularly with them. Leaders need to make a conscious effort to give each of their employees the time they deserve. Having this personal interaction regularly will motivate them in the long run, and create a stronger tie between you and your team, as well as your team and the company. 

As a leader, you need to feel emotionally connected to your team members. A new strategy, a change in management, or job cuts within the company are all things that will negatively affect your team. Opening up a dialogue with your employees individually, showing that you can see that there is something troubling them, will highlight that you want to do something about it. Having this open line of communication will allow you to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you will stick together as a team to see this through. 

Show the way 

One thing that is very important, is that as an executive you need to be able to self-regulate, even though this can be an immensely hard thing to do. This is key as leaders serve as a signpost when it comes to assessing the enormity of a situation, the cooler and calmer you are on the outside, the more relaxed and focused your team will be – no matter how dire a situation might be. 

Ensuring you have an open line of communication with your team, and creating a safe space will improve the employee experience. The concept of employee experience is not new, but it has become much more important in the field of human resource management (HRM) in recent years. It describes all the experience that employee has throughout their entire career within a company, and these can be very diverse, including aspects such as: the working environment, culture and values, technology provided, personal development, and wellbeing within the workplace. 

A successful employee experience can have a positive impact on employee retention, job satisfaction, productivity, and ultimately the success of a company. Recent studies show that a good employee experience can increase a company’s turnover by up to 50%. 

Having an open line communication is not the only way to ensure you have a good employee experience. Having clear cut goals, milestones, and KPIs will help employees get in touch with the company’s vision, and understand their roles in implementing it. It is also very important to provide recognition and opportunities for growth. True recognition is more than commending your employees for their successful work, it also means recognising their potential and supporting them accordingly by giving them tailored opportunities to learn and grow. 

Amidst the challenges of the modern workforce, such as the prevailing skills shortage, the importance of nurturing and retaining talent has never been more pronounced. The digital revolution and rapid technological advancements have transformed job requirements, creating a demand for specialised skills that few people possess. This scarcity amplifies the need for leaders to invest in their teams, provide ongoing training, professional development opportunities, and a supportive work environment to attract and retain top talent.

About the author

Barbara Stöttinger is Dean of the WU Executive Academy and professor at WU’s Institute for International Marketing Management. She has received numerous teaching awards for her lectures in Europe, Asia, and North America.

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