Effective Leadership: Key Steps to Foster an Engaged Workforce and Retain Top Talent

Dr. Jim Kanichirayil is the VP of Growth at EngageRocket, a leadership effectiveness and employee engagement platform that has been active in the Asian market for the last seven to eight years and is now launching in the US. With a background in staffing and recruiting, as well as HR tech, Dr. Jim's doctoral research was focused on employee retention and turnover.

In this episode of Getting Personal with Compt, Lauren Schneider, the Head of Communications, interviews Dr. Jim Kanichirayil on the topic of employee engagement and leadership effectiveness. They discuss the importance of leadership in driving employee satisfaction and retention, the role of immediate line managers in building trust within an organization, and the need for organizations to arm and empower their managers with the tools they need to be successful.

The Impact of the Manager-Employee Relationship

According to a Conference Board survey, leadership is a primary driver of job satisfaction, with 80% of those satisfied with leadership likely to stay, compared to only 27% who aren't. The employee's immediate line manager has the most influence on both their decision to join an organization and their exit plan.

Dr. Jim stresses the importance of empowering and equipping managers with what they need to be successful, as they have a significant impact on what's happening at the ground level within an organization. He also believes that employee engagement is an enterprise-wide responsibility rather than just HR's responsibility. Managers need to be disciplined in their communication, focusing on building relationships with their reporting structure through regular and structured one-on-one meetings.

"Everybody needs to be committed to this because otherwise, you're going to be dealing with a lot of sunk costs because you can't retain your people."

Active Listening and Taking Action

To truly listen to employees, Dr. Jim suggests using a micro-level approach during one-on-one meetings. The structure should focus on one topic where the employee is getting stuck and collaboratively solve for that one area. Organizations should act on feedback received from pulse surveys and temp checks to build credibility and solve common themes.

 "If you're not taking a deliberate and disciplined approach to regular one-on-ones... you're going to be much better off than those organizations that aren't doing one-on-ones."

He emphasizes the importance of creating a feedback culture, which should start from the time a candidate enters the talent pool. The onboarding process is a critical step in creating a listening culture, where feedback is encouraged and acted upon to make the process smoother. Feedback should be embedded throughout every stage of the employee lifecycle to create an expectation that this is the type of organization where feedback is valued.

Dr. Jim's top actionable takeaway tips for managers are to create a consistent cadence of one-on-one meetings with their reports, focusing on temp checks, and to start building a feedback culture from the onboarding process. At the organizational level, businesses need to stop thinking of people-related topics as an HR thing but rather an organizational imperative. By listening to employees and acting on their feedback, businesses can reduce replacement costs and allocate resources to their initiatives.

"Start listening to your people and start acting on what they're telling you, and then you'll build that elite organization."

Questions for Dr. Jim? Find him on LinkedIn.

Want to be a guest on the show? Send an email to Lauren Schneider at lauren@compt.io and get ready to get personal!

Watch the Episode!

Timestamped Chapter Summary​

  • Introduction (0:00:00)
  • Dr. Jim's background and current role (0:01:24)
  • The importance of leadership in driving employee satisfaction and retention (0:03:16)
  • The influence of immediate line managers on employee trust (0:04:04)
  • The shift of responsibility towards direct managers in fostering employee engagement (0:05:00)
  • The need for enterprise-wide commitment to people-related initiatives (0:05:31)
  • The importance of regular and structured one-on-ones for relationship building (0:06:09)
  • The purpose of one-on-ones and the danger of using them as status update exercises (0:07:10)
  • The misconception of remote and hybrid work (0:08:54)
  • The importance of transparent communication and active listening (0:10:20)
  • Consistent listening and actionable change (0:10:51)
  • Constructing effective one-on-ones for relationship building (0:11:06)
  • Acting on feedback from pulse surveys and temp checks (0:12:19)
  • The gap in communication and quality of communication (0:13:33)
  • Using one-on-ones as a conduit to connect the front line to the strategic vision (0:15:43)
  • The importance of feedback culture in creating elite organizations (0:16:44)
  • The business imperative of people-related initiatives (0:21:13)
  • Top actionable takeaway tips (0:22:06)
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