We are amid a tremendous post-pandemic hiring surge in 2021, which creates an opportunity for leaders at all levels. Most employers now want to demonstrate they’ve learned from the season of social justice protests, calls for greater equity, and realize the importance of diversity and inclusion to attract great employees.
Why does Employee Experience matter?
In recent years, “Customer Experience” (CX) was the most popular buzzword in all types of businesses. With these efforts focused on three pillars, degree of product adoption by customers or Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Acquisition Cost (CAS), and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), organizations aligned themselves behind a mission of outdoing rivals by increasing brand stickiness, enhancing brand magnetism, and augmenting product and service offerings to their loyal customer base. Digital transformation was part and parcel of elevating the customer experience as new platforms, capabilities, and ways of working were introduced.
But something crucial was missed on this journey to the utopia of optimized CX — the experience for employees who are required to design and deliver on the new standards of customer satisfaction, retention, and valuation.
As companies have increased overall attention and investment, they faltered in their people’s attraction, development, and retention efforts. Instead of improving the basics of sourcing the right type of future excellent team players (those precious few with the right combination of work ethic, heart, optimism, and maturity: W.H.O.M.), Human Resources departments are using AI and automated interviewing solutions to make candidate filtering easier for them.
Instead of enhancing onboarding practices by ensuring that hiring managers are actively engaged in this process and building trust with their new employees, many leaders miss this critical opportunity with employee handbooks and technology on day one, a facility tour on day two, an HR seminar on day three, and then told to get to work.
A better way for managers to onboard new hires would be to ask them for help setting clear performance expectations, building development goals for discovering and enabling employee strengths, and ensuring seamless integration into their teams. Unfortunately, manager development is deprioritized in favor of a faulty focus on “A Player” discovery and promotion.
With the additional expectations that create J.E.D.I. workplace cultures where injustice is minimized, equity is maximized, diversity is truly valued, and everyone is included, employee experience is likely to fall even further behind the necessary standards without a commitment for change at all levels of management.
What is J.E.D.I. Leadership?
Work is evolving away from the standard top-down hierarchy and toward a more lean, agile, collaborative, and decentralized organizational model. As the modern leadership gurus from Stephen Covey to Simon Sinek have been advocating for years now, modern models require a modernization of leadership.
This leadership shift requires a detox from the era of bossdom for managers and an embrace of the new era of stakeholder capitalism (enhancing value for employees, customers, communities, the environment, and shareholders) where shareholders are only one of five primary stakeholders — not the only stakeholder.
And Servant Leadership (an orientation away from bossing employees and toward leading with humility, will, and empathy) can provide the needed cleansing.
By tuning into employee needs, managers and organizational leaders will become far more aware of the internal injustices, inequities, uniformities, and exclusions their people face in trying to do their best work. Attacking these issues requires leaning into the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and influencing the transformation of internal policies, frameworks, procedures, and systems into those that enhance J.E.D.I. for everyone.
J.E.D.I. is not the work of a few — it requires a systemic top-down commitment to positive actions to eradicate toxic factors in favor of a culture where justice is prioritized, equity is the standard, diversity is truly valued and leveraged, and inclusion is commonplace.
As the good people at PolicyLink state in their Equity Manifesto: “This requires that we understand the past, without being trapped in it; embrace the present, without being constrained by it; and look to the future, guided by the hopes and courage of those who have fought before and beside us.”
Why is J.E.D.I. Leadership essential NOW?
With employees demanding change, here are five reasons why J.E.D.I. Leadership must be the new priority to enhance the employee experience and help organizations thrive in 2021:
1. J.E.D.I. Culture Enhancement
Every company needs to go through a detox. By eliminating unnecessary hierarchies and ego-driven policies, practices, and behaviors that come with them in favor of a culture where servant leaders are valued and given runway to excel, everyone will be assured that transformation from the inside out will be prioritized, activated, and continued. This work requires acknowledgment at all levels of the toxic policies that have been permitted to pervade the organization — those that created systemic injustices, inequities, promoted uniformity, and disparaged inclusion — will be placed into the light and dealt with accordingly.
2. J.E.D.I. Talent Acquisition
As the old adage goes, “garbage in, garbage out.” Today’s new joiners are tomorrow’s senior leaders. If they have problematic values walking in the door, the likelihood of their changing their stripes as they ascend the ranks is highly unlikely. By enhancing values screening with J.E.D.I. questions, recruiters can better ascertain red flags before hiring decisions are made.
3. J.E.D.I. Onboarding
When a new employee starts, first impressions are made and solidified. It is a great opportunity to show new joiners the J.E.D.I. work that has been done and is continuing to enhance the environment for everyone. Exposing new employees to a variety of internal stakeholders involved in these programs will ensure that they feel it is a true priority and gives comfort that they are in the right place. Including them in J.E.D.I. efforts right out of the gate is also a great way for them to meet people across functions and departments, build their networks, and feel valued right away.
4. J.E.D.I. Manager Assessment
Because employees experience a company through the lens of their managers, ensuring that the right people are in leadership roles is absolutely critical. An honest review of leaders will require a painful culling of the herd, as we have learned due to the experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace. By merely training and communicating new policies to managers, it fails to transform beliefs, values, and behaviors toward employees. If employees hear one thing from senior leaders and experience another from their line managers, the organization loses all credibility. It’s time for a full refresh at the managerial level, which has long been needed (Gallup reports that 82% of those in managerial roles are the wrong fits for the role.)
5. J.E.D.I. Managerial Effectiveness Training
With new policies and commitments at every level to create a culture where everyone can thrive, managers will be responsible for continuously enforcing and enhancing these standards. Managerial purpose will need to be realigned, incentives will need to be revisited, and practices reinvented. Taking quick action against bad actors and rewarding and recognizing those doing it right are key reinforcements that will demonstrate what the organization truly values.
What’s new in 2021 is that our global economy is now demanding that leaders find more ways to make justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion become a plus for business — starting with employees. Everyone will play an important role in this J.E.D.I. Leadership movement. And yes, this change will take time, patience, and resilience.
The only question remaining for everyone in leadership roles at corporations, startups, and entrepreneurs is: What are you doing to take action and be a J.E.D.I. Leader today?