In the 1960s, Bob Dylan released the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’” as a way to speak to what was happening during a pivotal time in the United States. As NPR reported, “The civil rights movement was underway and demonstrations against the war in Vietnam were gearing up.”
This song, although it is nearly 60 years old, also seems to be fitting today. Today, we’re seeing controversial immigrant camps at our border, rising climate change and more. From what I’m seeing in my social media feeds, news filters and day-to-day life, I believe it’s time to bring humanity back to the forefront.
The recent walkouts at various companies are just some of many significant moments occurring in this country that show the impact on organizations and leaders. From my perspective, the biggest attribute, characteristic and qualifier to being a leader is investing in employees’ development, wellbeing and value. By investing in people, you are investing in your product, bottom line, efficacy and health of your company.
In a world where technology is at the forefront of seemingly everything we do, it is even more important to invest in your teams. The mundane work technology can now handle is an opportunity to invest in people who can also continue to advance others; this is the future of work. So, while things may seem bleak, not everything has to be — I believe you can make a profit with humanity at the forefront.
In my eyes, the future of work is how we help others and all become servant leaders. Below are my suggestions for how leaders can begin reinvesting in the wellbeing of their employees:
Promote your company’s values.
Values are the beacon of how a company interacts with people internally and externally. All companies have a set of values, but there are two important questions to ask:
Use your organization’s values to promote humanity, and I believe people will be more likely to invest in you and buy your products. Values should be used and considered in all hiring, promotion and termination decisions, as well as your most important performance decisions. When you lead with values, you lead with opportunity for all that is fair and equitable. When you ignore values, you ignore the prosperity of people and culture, which determine engagement and productivity.
Stop giving out report cards, and encourage ongoing learning.
After spending close to 20 years in human resources, my favorite thing, beyond advancing and coaching people, was ripping out useless systems and bringing in constant learning. My favorite system to rip out was, by far, performance management systems. From my perspective, performance management systems do not help engage and empower employees because they assess team members without offering them the learning they need to progress.
So, instead of grading people on all the things they don’t know, I recommend getting into a constant conversation of learning. Bring in education to continue honing skills that empower employees to critically think and enhance their productivity and social good. Instead of spending time criticizing others, your organization can now spend time helping advance others. Education gives people a chance to learn in a safe, productive way. When we advance people, we advance ourselves.
Become a servant leader.
Another way leaders can prioritize employee wellbeing is by avoiding boxing people in and engaging real diversity to drive inclusion. Throw away your pre-employment boxes of gender, ethnicity and anything that assumes who someone else is. Instead, limit these boxes to who you are, and ask yourself: Am I a good person who helps others?
We all can be servant leaders. It’s pretty simple: When you hire, promote, train and engage with others in the workplace, show your authentic self at the forefront and what you and your organization can do together for business, economic and social good. When you hire and promote these things, you eliminate the toxic waste of those who only care about themselves. Instead, you produce humanity through one another and your actions of goodness, which inevitably helps others (and might even benefit your business).
There are many ways to eliminate waste in our lives with products and people. When it comes to the products your organization uses, think of it in the vein of: Will this bring you or your team long-term happiness? Will they use this a year from now? What is the value it is bringing in how they feel and what they do?
The same goes for the people within your organization. Surround yourself with people who will help you through education and not cheap favors. Surround yourself with others who will keep you always learning so you can think in a growth mindset that helps many — not just you. When you are hiring someone, look at how they will add value to the organization based on their difference. Difference opens doors to opportunity and inclusion of thought.
In summary, if we want to evolve and change, it begins with us. I’ve found that the evolution of our humanity in the workplace is a major qualifier for people and the organizations they want to work for long-term. By investing in your team and investing in yourself, I believe the world will become much kinder with healthier returns on investment, as “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”