Responsible Leadership is More Important than Ever

By: Tamara Fields

As tough as the pandemic, the Texas winter storm, and the last twelve months have been, they have also shed light on extraordinary acts of leadership.

I am proud of the Austin Chamber quickly mobilizing robust survival resources to help local companies. Water supplies and other support that Texas businesses readily offered to employees when the icy weather struck were nothing short of lifesaving for many — I count my family and me among them. These are reminders that my fellow Austinites have big hearts and rise to the occasion during times of need.

But, this is only a start. In order for entire Austin community to bounce back stronger from this health, economic, and social crisis, leaders of every business, big and small, must do more than recover financially — and care for their employees to bring out the very best in them.

There’s no doubt the compound effect of the eventful past year has made things difficult for so many people. With about a third of Texas businesses offering telework according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the responsibility and challenges of taking care of our employees are even greater.

The good news is — perhaps, counter to the conventional wisdom — caring for our people professionally and personally is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good business.

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Mind the gap.

Recent Accenture research shows that prior to the pandemic, just 35% of C-level leaders embraced supporting people’s holistic needs. Within six months, this number shot up to 50%. But leaders still have catching up to do, given that a huge majority of workers — 78% — believe their employer has a responsibility toward ensuring their holistic wellbeing.

The study identified several universal dimensions of experience at work that matter most to workers: emotional and mental, relational, physical, financial, purposeful, and employable.

However, most organizations tend to over-index on limited aspects like financial rewards and employee perks, while often falling short in the emotional, relational, and purposeful dimensions.

That’s short-sighted — when employees’ holistic needs are met, two good things happen.

First, we tap into people’s potential, which betters their employee experience. In fact, 64% of an individual’s potential at work — which is defined as the ability to use their skills and strengths — is influenced by meeting needs across these dimensions.

Second, even during times of weak GDP growth, research shows companies that meet the holistic needs of workers can see revenue growth of 5%.

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Caring for people holistically.

So, what does caring for the full spectrum of employees’ wellbeing look like?

We need to start by listening to learn what our frontline workers need to bring their best to work. We can lean into technology to enable flexible work arrangements and provide more creative work for increasingly dispersed employees. This can free people to engage in more fulfilling and innovative work, not to mention attract talent with critical skills. Technology also allows us to empower our people with real-time data and give us tools to enable continuous learning for today and tomorrow.

It’s not enough to say we care. We also have to model behaviors that promote our own wellbeing. It’s also on the leaders to set and share people metrics, set accountability for diversity and equality, be transparent, and engage in intentional and courageous conversations that matter to people. This not only helps workers have a positive experience at work; it’s rewarding and reminds us of our purpose.

The Austin community is on its path of recovery, and how we lead — with purpose and empathy — will shape our future. When values and responsible leadership take center stage, we, the Austinites, businesses and community, are all better off.

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Tamara Fields, Office Managing Director for Accenture in Austin, is responsible for bringing innovation to clients, recruiting and retaining top talent, and strengthening Accenture’s impact in the Austin community. As a business veteran with more than two decades of cross-industry, multilateral project management experience, she helps better serve clients with creative, strategic, and transformative solutions.

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