Fostering a culture of engagement entails so many disparate variables in today’s complex workplaces- from creating enabling environments, mapping out individual growth plans, to appreciation and recognition from senior management. We look to senior leaders to set the standard and reinforce the company’s purpose. They represent the brand and what it stands for, not only to the general public, but also to all levels of the organization’s employees. As the Dale Carnegie Employee Engagement Study found, one of the key drivers of employee motivation is Belief in Senior Leadership, though as we will see, creating this belief is no easy task. In addition to this, the Immediate Supervisor remains one of the biggest influencers of workplace engagement in India and across the world.
But how does this belief get created? Establishing credibility takes time and strong communication skills. More importantly, it also involves the consistent display of certain behaviours while building workplace relationships. The truth of the matter is that the talent landscape and economic realities are so fundamentally distinct for each country that a single solution can rarely be templated. The Dale Carnegie Global Leadership Report examines the complexities of what works in cross-cultural environments and implications of the same for leaders at the helm of global organizations. This recent research by Dale Carnegie Training involved conducting an online survey with more than 3,300 respondents across four regions and 14 countries in order to offer insights into the impact that different leadership characteristics have on inspiring employees to do their best work, driving job satisfaction and affecting retention. We also looked at how different regions prioritize the importance of various leadership characteristics in order to build a guide for today’s leaders who increasingly manage teams internationally.
The survey focused on determining if there was a motivational trade-off for employees between task-oriented or interpersonal-oriented leadership behaviour. This allowed us to understand, firstly, if some leadership behaviours were more effective in engaging employees than others as well as the gaps that the immediate supervisor exhibited in demonstrating these behaviours. Further, the research was designed to help us understand more about the internal and external reliability of immediate supervisors – i.e., how consistently they displayed “Honesty” with others and whether they were perceived to be acting in ways that were true to their own principles. Finally, so that we could look for correlations, we asked respondents how satisfied they were with their current jobs and what their plans were for staying with their current employer.
Throughout the study, we remained mindful of the pitfalls of making generalizations, even within geographically adjacent regions, where there might be substantial differences in preferences for leadership behavior. Some of the more significant findings to emerge from the study are detailed below along with their corresponding takeaway:
- Criticality of the Immediate Supervisor: Behaviors of the immediate supervisor were, once again, seen to have a significant impact on job satisfaction and retention, without exception, across the globe. Organizations that coach their managers and senior leaders on how to develop their teams and connect with them personally are more likely to see the effects of positive engagement in their workforce.
- Sincere appreciation and praise are essential to motivating employees around the world. Interestingly, in India 86% of employees stated that having a Supervisor who shows Sincere Appreciation is somewhat or very important for inspiring them to their best work. However, only 53% of Supervisors in India exhibited this attribute. Here we found a direct actionable for companies to work on with their managers and supervisors.
- Skew towards employees’ preference for the demonstration of Person-oriented Leadership behavior. Effective leaders were defined by their capacity to both develop themselves and create a safe environment that fostered their employees’ capacity to grow. Hence, in the quest to get their teams to be more productive, leaders should look at incorporating some of the identified interpersonal behaviors that have been voted as inspiring across levels.
- The level of Reliability in Leaders affects job satisfaction and retention: When leaders are externally-reliable (honest and trustworthy with others) as well as internally-reliable (true to their beliefs and principles), employees’ satisfaction and retention improve. This was seen through the correlation between the frequency of leaders demonstrating these characteristics and employees’ stated intention to stay with the company for the long term and their job-seeking status.
In a stand out similarity across regions, we saw employees identify the same top five Leadership Attributes, albeit in different order. From a list of twelve different types of managerial behaviors, employees selected the below five as the most likely to motivate and inspire them:
- Giving praise and appreciation
- Encouraging their employees to improve
- Admitting their own shortfalls before criticizing others
- Recognizing performance improvement
- Points out mistakes in an indirect and tactful way
Source: The Dale Carnegie Global Leadership Report
Interestingly, when we carried out our gap analysis, wherein we looked at how often leaders demonstrated the behaviours which employees said motivated them, we saw that the top five most important leadership attributes were also those with the largest gaps between importance and performance. More than 80% of employees said that the leadership attributes of “respecting my opinion”, “showing sincere appreciation”, “truly listening”, “valuing my contribution” and “admitting when they are wrong” were all somewhat or very important to inspiring them to do their best work. Of these top five key behaviors, just 60% said that their immediate supervisor respected their opinion most or all of the time, while only about half of all respondents said that their leader exhibited the other four key behaviors most of the time or always.
In our final correlation section, some leadership qualities were found to be far more effective in certain regions than others. For example in Germany and the USA, when a Supervisor steadily demonstrated Internal Reliability (doing and saying things consistent with their beliefs and principles), it was more likely to have a positive correlation with a reportee’s intention to stay with the company for a longer term. However, there was a much weaker link between these two variables in countries like India and Singapore.
Unsurprisingly, we examined the various leadership challenges peculiar to India and found that:
- Reported dissatisfaction among employees in our country is almost half the global average (12 % vs 20%)
- The number of employees actively looking for a new job is almost double the global average (31% vs 16%)
- As leaders move towards being Always Reliable, the percentage of employees looking for a job declines by half (from 38 % to 19%)
- As leaders move towards being Always Reliable, the percentage of employees with intention to stay in their roles for another 2-5 years doubles (13- 26%)
- The behavior most likely to inspire people to do their best is to ‘give me praise and honest appreciation for the work” but it is also the biggest gap in performance of senior leaders.
The findings from this research have the capacity to change our attitudes towards interpersonal skills and hopefully make us more actively involved in driving engagement by simply focusing on how we interact with our teams and to target these efforts more acutely by incorporating desired behaviors. It has certainly reinforced our mission to stay on the cutting edge of employee engagement and to continue to work with companies to bring out the best in their people and help them lead at all levels.
For the full report, please visit the Dale Carnegie India website