Sounding board: How to foster emotionally satisfied and productive employees

Typically, workplace culture has been left in the hands of human resources departments. It’s their job to make sure employees are happy and engaged, right? Well, yes, sort of. But something as big as culture can’t be just one department’s responsibility. The whole thing about culture is that everyone’s responsible for it.

In 2018, Australia shone a spotlight on its big banks and financial institutions after widespread bad behaviour. While this included illegal activities, the majority of the questionable conduct came from an individual mentality that they could do whatever was needed if it contributed to greater profits. And where do you think this message was coming from? The top.

Read: Workplace culture touted as beneficial for return to work

Whether today’s executives are encouraging this behaviour through inaction, language or a culture of high performance tied to inappropriate incentives, they need to move beyond the bottom line and take more responsibility for how they lead, motivate and inspire their people to not only do their job but to do the right thing.

Chief executive officers are responsible for a number of things , including shareholders, the board and customers. But the No. 1 area they’re responsible for — which has a direct correlation to other facets of the business — is their people. People are a company’s single greatest asset, but it’s the one not reflected on the balance sheet.

It’s every leader’s job to ensure their people have a job tomorrow, but more importantly, to make sure employees are in a workplace where they can thrive and become a better version of themselves.

We all have a fond memory of at least one teacher in school. Someone who either understood us, took more time with us, inspired us and, more importantly, showed the same interest, compassion and patience for those around us. We expect our teachers to look after every student in the classroom. Why isn’t it the same for CEOs?

Read: Canadian employers investing more in employee training: survey

At a time where many are feeling underwhelmed with the landscape of leaders around the world, now’s the time for senior business leaders to step up, think a little differently and do something that has real impact.

Employees often disengage or leave an organization because the company they chose either turns out to be something completely different or doesn’t live up to the vision they were sold. People are also becoming more isolated, more disconnected and more vulnerable.

It’s this sense of isolation and disengagement in the workplace that’s driving many people, across all levels of an organization, to seek and find mentorship — quality, meaningful connections, someone who’s there to listen, offer a friendly piece of advice and challenge them to do great thing beyond their perceived ability.

But how does a CEO drive something where everyone feels included? The answer is mentorship , and we all have the resources right in front of us  —  it’s us.

Read: Editorial: We are woman: A call for gender diversity, pay equity and workplace mentorship 

Mentorship doesn’t have to be a hierarchical, long-term relationship . In fact, these types of relationships are becoming less relevant for people. In 2019, mentoring is all about embracing a company-wide approach and activating the internal, latent talent sitting within a business and converting it to a reciprocal knowledge bank.

It’s about peer-to-peer mentorship, shared experiences and building our own personal advisory board.

All the global leading brands offer mentoring to their people  —  Apple Inc. Google and Microsoft. Mentoring is embraced by successful leaders,  as well as companies leading from the front and organizations putting their people first.

It’s up to CEOs and senior leaders to create a work environment where all employees have equal access to mentoring opportunities. This is relevant for large and small companies alike, and even more relevant for organizations committed to building an inclusive workplace.

Read: Millennial employees more likely to be involved in mentoring: survey

Mentoring done right  —  the right match, the right support, the right reason —  can have a huge impact on the individual, as well as the entire organization.

 Heidi Holmes is the co-founder and chief operating office of Australia-based Mentorloop.