A successful business leader is someone who innovates and adapts. Though there are some universal leadership strategies such as effective communication, new strategies always arise to meet emerging circumstances.
We spoke with several business leaders to glean the leadership strategies that will mark 2022.
Improving the Employee Experience
While employee resignation is nothing new, the past few years and especially the last several months have witnessed The Great Resignation. US employees are leaving their jobs in record numbers. The blurring of home and work life that occurred during the pandemic has shown many workers they need more out of their jobs. Business leaders need to recognize these needs and build a work environment that effectively supports their employees.
Jeanne MacDonald, a writer for Chief Executive, claims that many companies are offering higher starting salaries, more long-term benefits, and flexible work options to recruit new hires. Additionally, they’re starting to look inward.
“Facing a talent shortage means organizations will start to focus more on internal mobility, reskilling and upskilling existing employees to prevent attrition and fill niche roles,” MacDonald says.
Supportive workplaces that meet employees’ needs will mark successful businesses in 2022.
Brett Estep, COO of Insured Nomads, states, “Every business leader in 2022 needs to be thinking about how they can improve the employee experience (EX), particularly in the age of hybrid and remote work opportunities. The key is to provide an innovative environment of flexibility and trust, cultural growth, and strong communications among effective internal organizational processes. These strategic elements are a priority today and are proving to enhance engagement, wellbeing, productivity, and overall business performance for successful companies today.”
The employee experience begins with the onboarding process and continues throughout one’s employment, so it’s necessary to make a great first impression and live up to it. Show potential employees your company culture and wholeheartedly welcome them into it.
But how is this done? Eric Elggren, Co-Founder of Andar, discusses specific tools leaders can implement to improve the employee experience.
“You have to supply the learning tools your employees need,” Elggren begins. “Companies with thorough training programs with opportunities for growth and development will keep employees engaged and confident in their abilities. When employees meet or exceed expectations, they should be recognized and rewarded. Sometimes, this takes the form of promotions or pay raises, but it can also appear in positive evaluations or public recognition. Finally, business leaders must give their team members as much flexibility as possible.”
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the desire for a flexible work environment into a necessity. Job insecurities, health crises, and disrupted schedules have made it difficult, if not impossible, for employees to return to “traditional” work and for businesses to operate the way they once did. As mentioned previously, this reality has led many employees to resign from jobs that didn’t offer them the flexibility they needed.
Alyssa Berman-Waugh, VP of Marketing at Level, describes how flexibility will improve both business leaders and employees.
Berman-Waugh claims, “It’s incredibly important that leaders lead with flexibility this year. Returning to offices remains in flux for many people, meaning work priorities still are fused with personal responsibilities at home. Leaders need to be respectful and mindful that priorities are constantly changing for people. Having strict set hours won’t work for all employees, so letting people prioritize their time and work when they are most focused and productive is a key way to move forward. Leaders can also recommend resources for improving productivity and focus, which might really help employees work smarter and optimize their time.”
Daniel Osman, Head of Sales at Balance Homes, agrees.
He states, “Just as you want customers to feel empowered during the purchasing process, you want employees to feel empowered in the way they work. Forcing employees to stick to strict schedules and methods that don’t suit them only causes burnout and poor work. Giving your team the option to work remotely or in a hybrid format allows them to build a work schedule to prioritize work and home life. Being open to new strategies for achieving goals keeps your team motivated because it shows that you’re listening to their suggestions and leads to higher productivity and efficiency. There are many ways to work and many ways to lead. In both, flexibility is key.”
Another strategy business leaders can use to thrive in 2022 is building connections with employees and customers.
Connecting with Employees and Customers
The pandemic turned our sense of connection was turned upside down. In-person meetups were replaced with other forms of connection such as Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls. Some employees may have never seen their co-workers face to face. In such an isolating time, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the team.
Zach Letter, CEO of Wonder Works, discusses how this illusion of separation makes it tempting for leaders to focus on the more tangible aspects of their businesses.
“Business is a numbers game,” he states. “However, it is sometimes easy for management to get lost in the digits when communicating to their teams, and is why connecting a name rather than a figure to concepts is an effective leadership strategy. Numbers are great at conveying information but lousy at portraying human emotion. By sharing stories of how your team’s work affects their customers, you can draw a line between the company’s goals and their real-life impact. By remembering that behind every business decision, there is a person who felt that action, you will display caring and understanding, as well as leadership.”
To build a people-centered work culture, business leaders must use the resources at their disposal to foster connections between team members.
Laura Berg, Chief Commercial Officer KONG Club, claims, “Remote work culture has fostered a nuanced sense of connection in the workplace. We all are privy to small slices of life through video chat and digital communication from our colleagues and employees that we didn’t have access to before. This line between private and public life for all of us is more visible, and, as a leader in my industry, I want to nurture new senses of trust and connection that we all lost leaving the office space.”
It’s also important for business leaders to focus on their connections with the customers.
Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO and Founder of Bramble Berry, explains how she has brought her employees and her customers together in a community.
“There’s a false sense of separation between producer and consumer,” Faiola states. “We all work together in a system. We need each other. Producers need consumers economically because consumers supply their revenue, but they also need them to develop new ideas and products. Consumers need producers to provide goods and services. As a business leader, you can encourage this symbiotic relationship by uplifting your customers and team members. Show your audience how current customers use your products and highlight individual employees for customers to see. You will better understand your customers, and they will better understand you.”
The final leadership strategy for 2022 is focusing on your purpose.
Focusing on Purpose
Purpose is the heart of every organization. When a company’s purpose is unclear, employees and customers feel disconnected. Employees may be confused about company goals, making their tasks monotonous and seemingly unimportant. Customers may find it difficult to trust your product or service.
Mike Esterday, a writer for Forbes, claims, “As a leader, it’s your job to bring purpose back into focus and help people see the higher reason for what they’re doing.”
Leo Livshetz, Founder and CEO of UnHide, emphasizes the importance of finding your “why.”
Livshetz claims, “A company’s purpose goes beyond the products they’re selling. All business leaders have a mission that is usually part of a broader movement. Ours, for example, is sustainability and ethically-made goods. Leaders will take their mission and develop a product that meets a specific need and caters to niche audiences. Sometimes, they become wrapped up in the details. While there’s nothing wrong with being detail-oriented, business leaders have to focus on large-scale as well as small-scale issues. They are responsible for reminding their team of the mission, of why their work is necessary.”
Business leaders must set aside time for self-reflection. When running a business, there are so many factors to consider that you may feel yourself losing sight of why you started in the first place. Periods of reflection can fuel your passion and allow space for new ideas.
Jared Hines, Head of Operations at Acre Gold, offers insight into how leaders can use self-reflection to establish clear goals.
“One of the most effective leadership strategies is taking a step back from work,” he states. “It gives you a greater perspective. You can check in with your team members to ensure everyone is supported and clear on their roles. You can look at customer feedback and determine how you want to change. You can evaluate if your small-term goals line up with your larger mission. Work without reflection leads to unnecessary items on the to-do list and outdated work methods.”
Once you’ve clarified your goals through self-reflection, the next step is to communicate these goals with your team.
Rachel Roff, Founder and CEO of Urban Skin Rx, claims, “A key leadership move in 2022 will be to think about how you can improve your business structure to build highly effective teams and have the capability to take advantage of new opportunities. For a lot of businesses, this will include incorporating new methods of communication or project management for virtual teams, allowing for improved collaboration and growth. The changes you incorporate don’t need to be highly innovative, they just need to have a strong impact on your daily internal operations.”
As a business leader, you can take these tips – improving the employee experience, offering flexible work options, connecting with your team, and focusing on your purpose – and make this year your most successful one yet. With these business strategies, 2022 will be a year of happy employees, satisfied customers, and thriving businesses.