We surveyed over a 1000 workers and asked them “What skills do you think your leaders need to have to keep you engaged?”
Over 94% of those surveyed said that they think that leaders need essential human skills (also known as soft skills) to keep teams engaged.
In the past, the term that used to be used to describe emotional intelligence or communication skills or people skills was ‘soft skills’.
If there has been any major social change as a result of the pandemic it is that people are viewing work and life very differently. A number of social and societal values that are shifting due to the pandemic include:
- Rural migration (workers moving to open spaces due to remote work)
- Worker market shift – workers are seeking remote work for their future
- Workers making big life changes such as career change or quitting altogether
- Increase in freelance and contract work so that workers can work when and where they want on own terms
We have to look at the societal values shifts as a major trend that is going to continue to impact the future of the workplace.
For example, I have worked with a few clients recently who have said that they will be mandating return to office post pandemic. The challenge with mandating something after people have been through highly stressful times is that people will resist.
We have heard from workers through surveys, saying that if they are mandated back to office they will look for work elsewhere. The antidote to mandating a return to office is for leaders to develop essential human skills to keep teams engaged.
The skills that leaders needed to engage workers pre-pandemic are not the same skills needed by leaders to engage workers now and into the future.
Essential human skills include:
- Multiple perspectives – the ability to elevate and see people’s personalities, generations, situations and values from a variety of angles.
- Enhanced communication – the ability to communicate in a way that ‘speaks’ to the heart of an individual by honouring and respecting individuals
- Emotional intelligence – the ability to see and intuitively tap into the subtle messaging going on between people and to pick up on cues where extra attention is needed
- Shared leadership – the ability to ‘park the ego at the door’ and to focus on the overall team – to share power and share resources and share success with team members
- Empathy – the ability to focus on the human impact of strategic directives and to value people first in all pursuits of achieving goals
- People first perspective – the ability to look at all initiatives such as digital transformation or business growth through the lens of how to take care of the people and resource people to succeed
In the example of mandating people back to the office it would be far more impactful to engage workers through surveying and polling to find out the ‘pulse’ of worker attitudes.
By including and asking for worker input leaders can create a return to work plan that includes a variety of options for workers. The future is a hybrid workplace where some workers will want to work from the office and others will want to work primarily from home. The key is for leaders to use essential human skills to engage workers.
The future of leadership requires leaders who have essential human skills and who can inspire and engage workers.