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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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Highly Engaging Workforce Leaders Have These Three Essential Qualities

No matter what section of the news you turn to these days, it’s obvious that we’re in throes of a leadership crisis -- or five. President Trump’s administration continues to court controversy and divide the nation. After a contentious election in France, Emmanuel Macron’s landslide victory has now devolved into the lowest approval rating in the country’s history. And the ouster of Uber’s top executives have exposed similar struggles in business. Leadership is a daunting task, and everyone’s watching. But right now, it’s more important than ever, especially as workers and executives confront the uncertainty of a future enhanced by machines. One thing’s certain -- whatever takes place, we can’t let people fall through the cracks. Let’s look at the top qualities exhibited by highly engaging leaders to help remind us of our role as a guiding force in talent acquisition and management.

Based on the findings in Edelman’s Trust Barometer study -- a sweeping global survey of employee opinions toward management -- leadership troubles abound. The report discovered that 82 percent of workers did not trust their bosses. Of those people, over half left their positions because of their managers. Destructive leadership traits also have real-world economic implications. Research from Applied Psychology show that failed management results in losses of between $1 million and $2.7 million.

As we wrote in June, covering some poignant lessons that define the framework of leadership, a company’s leader is its brand. For former ride-sharing executives like Travis Kalanick and Syed Zain Gilani, their poorly received public images hobbled the brands of their organizations. On the flipside, people like Elon Musk and Clorox CEO Ben Dorer have risen to great heights of admiration, elevating their businesses along with them. Behaviors matter. Informed and universally beneficial decision-making matters. Valuing the people who build, deliver and buy your solutions matters. However, there’s more to incredible leadership than charisma, vision, issuing orders and taking charge.

A compelling and results-driven leader builds confidence and strength through intention, as Andrew Thomas explained in Inc. Magazine. More often than not, this requires an individual who is willing to make the tough calls and do the hard things others won’t.

Real Leaders Lead, They Don’t Just Delegate

“The results are worth it,” Thomas said. “As a strong leader, you’ll be able to attract the talent and funding you need to realize your vision. As a strong leader, you can inspire greater engagement and higher productivity from everyone around you. How do leaders achieve such results? By doing hard things on a daily basis.”

As any workforce program leader knows, the ultimate measure of effective management springs from the performance of the team -- and how that performance raises the quality and productivity of the client organization, especially in comparison to competitors. With all the different classifications of workers in today’s blended labor force, staffing has become a complex and multifaceted balancing act. The quality of talent acquisition leaders determines the success or failure of the outcomes.

Three Qualities of Highly Engaging Staffing Leaders

Control

In the bygone days of businesses, leaders were often taught to control the work and the workers. Corporate models were built as pyramids, with a top-down hierarchy. The notion of control was instilled at the highest levels to ensure the proper flow of duties down through the structure. In this dynamic and fluid economy, we’ve grown to understand that pyramidal models no longer achieve optimal results. Today the idea of control involves regulating our thoughts, attitudes and actions -- not the daily duties of our talent, partners or vendors.

“Disciplined leaders know how to control and quiet their thoughts,” Andrew Thomas noted. “They harness their power of mind to manage what they can, and then let go of what they can’t control. They also know how to think analytically as well as creatively, striking the right balance between innovation and accountability.” Here are some ways contingent workforce leaders can master this type of control.

Embrace uncertainty and pitfalls. A contingent workforce program has more moving parts than a traditional business operation. Hiring managers, client executives, recruiters and talent have different goals, needs and motivations. With all the uncertainty and demands coming in from different directions, some self-doubt and missteps will occur. Use these incidents as learning opportunities. Always move forward with the mission, embracing failures as lessons in experience. By correcting the issues, creating new practices and then acting on them, staffing leaders become positive examples that others want to follow.

Challenge your existing beliefs. Questioning the biases and long-held assumptions of the group helps you gain fresh insights to continuously improve performance. Accept healthy dissent as an offer of opinions with new value, not disobedience. Listen attentively and invite every stakeholder to participate in strategic conversations without the fear of rebuke. Foster diversity to gain even more wisdom and innovating thinking. The mission’s success depends on uncovering the truth -- fixing flaws and capitalizing on gains. Conversely, working to rationalize deeply held convictions or a fractured culture will reinforce only the status quo, which might be broken.

Communicate and listen effectively. Communication is paramount to leadership, especially in contingent workforce programs. At any given time, there are hiring managers, MSP program managers, procurement leaders and talent who need your attention. Highly effective leaders motivate, persuade and engage their audiences through empathy and honesty. They listen carefully and take their time to provide thoughtful responses, not orders. They also know when to hold back, choosing the appropriate time to reveal critical information. Success is achieved when leaders give their talent a voice, admit when they don’t have the answer, confess to being wrong, and ask for help. Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness; it can be a tremendous show of strength and unity.

Compassion

“One of the toughest things for leaders to master is kindness,” explained Dr. Travis Bradberry for TalentSmart. “Kindness shares credit and offers enthusiastic praise for others’ work. It’s a balancing act, between being genuinely kind and not looking weak.”

At the core of compassionate management is a deep grasp of emotional intelligence, something we in the workforce solutions industry have been touting for a while. Truly influential contingent workforce program leaders understand this and promote it.

Achieving a state of productive kindness requires striking a balance between inherent compassion and strength. “Kindness is weak when you use it in a self-serving manner,” Dr. Bradberry cautioned. “Self-serving kindness is thin -- people can see right through it when a kind leader has an agenda.” Telling people the truth, rather than satisfying what we think they want to hear, is sincere kindness. Here are some ways contingent workforce program managers can foster firm yet compassionate leadership.

  • Recognize the efforts, contributions and achievements of team members and partners.
  • Coach people and constructively critique areas for improvement, while championing the development of perspective-taking and problem-solving behaviors.
  • Engage in honest, self-aware and humble discussions about the needs and concerns of your workers and partners. Focus on finding opportunities in existing challenges.
  • Lead by example and visibly work to build a community that serves the needs of the mission.
  • Amazing leaders involve themselves in personal and professional development. They’re avid learners, always looking for ways to network, mentor, volunteer and expand their horizons.
  • Emphasize the importance of honoring commitments, making the right decisions in tough circumstances, always being fair and respectful (even if others aren’t), and demonstrating a firm commitment to backing the plays of your people when they’re right.

Confidence

“We gravitate to confident leaders because confidence is contagious, and it helps us to believe that there are great things in store,” said Dr. Bradberry. “The trick, as a leader, is to make certain your confidence doesn’t slip into arrogance and cockiness.”

Incredible leaders develop confidence as a result of passion and belief in their abilities to make things happen. They don’t lose touch with reality and hoard credit for the accomplishments of their team. And when the going gets tough, true leaders jump into the trenches to get the job done with their people. This is how credibility is built, maintained and respected.

The key is staying positive yet grounded in reality. When problems present themselves, pessimism and optimism alone will erode the chances of an optimal outcome. As an example, let’s say an MSP’s highest performing supplier leaves the program. The pessimist abandons hope. The blind optimist reassures everyone that the situation will somehow resolve itself, which ultimately becomes a disingenuous statement that destroys the confidence a team shares in its leadership.

The positive realist acknowledges the obstacle, solicits help from his or her team, develops a solution and pushes ahead with a “we can prevail” attitude. So in our example, here are some actions a powerful contingent workforce program leader could take.

  • Explain the situation clearly to the client and its hiring managers. Outline the steps you’re planning to take, and propose a reasonable and achievable timeframe for the effort.
  • Immediately gather your supplier management team and review performance analytics from other staffing partners in the program. Identify a group of partners with similar strengths and proven capabilities in related areas.
  • Consider expanding that investigation to newer or smaller suppliers who have the potential and hunger to rise up and prove themselves. The opportunity could help you discover a new superstar provider.
  • Hold a meeting with your top pick staffing partners to learn more, explain the issue and collaborate on a resolution. This could involve tiering staffing partners by job categories, industries and more. Invite newer partners to serve as second-tier backups.
  • Lay out the implementation plan to the client, and then deploy.

“Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole,” Dr. Bradberry concluded. And nothing in the workforce is as dynamic as contingent labor programs. They are rapidly redefining what “traditional” business environments will look like in the near future. So in many ways, workforce program leaders are poised to stand as tomorrow’s business leaders. With the right practices and behaviors, they can create new successes for a new era of work.

Casey Enstrom
Casey Enstrom
Casey is one of the staffing industry’s household names, specializing in sales and operations leadership. He brings extensive knowledge of business development and sales strategies, predictive analytics, leadership, and human capital solutions. Prior to Crowdstaffing, Casey served as the Vice President of Technical Sales, North America, for a Fortune 1000 staffing firm.
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