Resilience and engagement should be at the centre of employee value propositions

Fresh insights from Momentum show the need for adaptive leadership beyond ‘crisis excellence’.

Key drivers to an enabling culture, particularly during a crisis like Covid-19, are a noble purpose – which includes care, empathy, trust, and a relevant, needs-based employee value proposition. These were the findings of Momentum’s multi-level research conducted among employers, employees and financial advisers.

The findings were presented by Dumo Mbethe, CEO of Momentum Corporate, at the recent 2021 Partnership Connect webinar.

According to Dumo, a key insight emerging from the research is the increasing importance of employee resilience and engagement in the new world of work. “Resilient employees tend to be more capable of dealing with change and are at lower risk of burnout, resulting in better physical and mental well-being,” he said. “A resilient mindset not only shields employees from the negative effects of stress, but drives employee engagement and reduces absenteeism.”

“Our research insights highlight the need for a far more holistic approach to the EVP [which incorporates employee benefits], one that considers the wellbeing and changing needs of employees and their families over the employee’s working lifetime. The right combination of EVP and employee benefits offerings helps employees to deal with distracting stressors and, in doing so, boosts employee resilience, wellbeing and engagement,” he added.

In terms of employee engagement and wellbeing, four key indicators were identified:

  1. A continued sense of connection to the purpose of the organisation;
  2. Feeling supported while adapting to new conditions of work;
  3. Coping with new challenges in ways of working; and
  4. Receiving adequate and open communication from the employer.

The research further highlighted that greater flexibility around work hours and hybrid work will remain a key aspect of the workplace. This is aligned with global research from Gartner, which found that 48 percent of employees across the world will work remotely at least some of the time in future.

Employee preference to work from home does, however, influence their connection and engagement levels and this should be considered when designing future operating models.

Communication and competence
From a business leadership perspective, the research reiterated the need for leaders to provide clear, ongoing and open communication to employees in order to build trust and confidence. Other leadership themes that emerged included clarity around the company’s purpose and strategy, having measurable objectives and accountability for growth and retention.

Being agile and adaptive, embracing new technologies, and accelerating digital adoption across businesses are all important as this is what will drive digital engagement, efficient processes, and having the appropriate IT infrastructure and support in place.

These themes overlapped substantially with the concept of adaptive leadership, which keynote speaker Alex Granger spoke about in a pre-recorded video [sadly, Alex passed away soon after the event].

“Many companies are riding the wave of crisis excellence. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were celebrating the fact that we were doing so much, it was almost like an adrenaline rush. But that is a fallacy. Things achieved during a crisis are not sustainable,” he explained.

“Over time, people become traumatised and we have shifted from resilience to empathy to compassion. Now, we need to move to productivity.”

In order to successfully navigate the transition, leaders require three levels of competence, namely emotional competence, physical competence and intellectual competence.

With emotional competence, the focus is on authenticity, self-awareness, empathy and relationship management, whereas physical competence refers to good physical wellbeing in terms of exercise, rest and a balanced diet. Intellectual competence, according to Alex, is not about being smart, but rather about allowing employees to collaborate and tap into sensory data to bring their best thinking to the table.

These competencies feed into an adaptive leadership style, which is what is required for the businesses to survive and thrive.
In the video, Alex outlined adaptive leadership as a three-pronged approach of leading with empathy, leaders modelling the change they want to see in the organisation and reinforcing accountability and process ownership, which includes having integrity, being honest and having tough conversations.