Leadership Matters: A Top Risk Keeping Leaders Up at Night

leader holds hands protectively around people figures representing workplace team
Scott Foster Photo

5 minutes

Here are four ways credit union leaders can promote wellness and strategic buy-in to boost talent retention.

As we move into the new year, a particular business risk is on every leader’s mind: attracting and retaining top talent.

In the 2023 Global Risk Management Survey, this risk significantly ascended in importance after not even making the top 10 the previous year. (CUES members were clearly ahead of the curve, citing attracting and retaining talent as a top challenge in the 2023 HR and Talent Development Survey.)

Industry leaders are worrying that their inability to hire and keep “good people” is no longer just an “HR problem”—it’s posing a significant risk to the business. By day’s end, nearly every risk modern leaders must handle centers on recruiting and retaining the right people.

  • Brand damage ... people problem
  • Data breach ... people problem
  • Business disruption ... people problem
  • Failure to meet consumers’ changing expectations ... people problem

You get the picture. But when we refer to a “people problem,” it’s not about blaming your front-line staff. Here’s how forward-thinking leaders are addressing this talent risk.

1. Invest in People and Strategic Priorities

In today’s highly competitive market, the irreplaceable value of building a magnetic workplace culture is clearer than ever. Establishing an irresistible workplace culture holds unprecedented significance. Navigating this evolving workforce landscape demands dynamic leadership and proactive strategies that prioritize both employee well-being and key organizational priorities.

It’s not about advocating for extravagant overhauls or extensive long-term plans. Simplicity, coupled with strategic focus, reigns supreme.

Action Items:

  • Invest in Your People: Discover simple yet impactful ways to foster growth, nurture culture and support your workforce.
  • Focus on Quick Wins: Seek out some immediate, tangible victories that your team can take on right away. Understand that attracting and retaining talent becomes achievable when you build incrementally.
  • Identify Strategic Levers: Recognize pivotal areas within your organization that wield influence across the landscape.

Finding these areas allows you to create ripples of positive change that lead to long-term prosperity. It’s about aligning investment in people with strategic initiatives, forging a path toward collective success.

2. Unlock Untapped Potential

Employees who feel heard by leadership are nearly five times more likely to say they “give their best” at work. What does that mean? Even if you’ve secretly lamented that you can’t find or keep “the right people,” they may already be right there with you. Yes, even the punctuality-challenged employees, the office contrarians and those browsing Indeed Jobs on company time. They’re holding some of their potential back. They’re afraid to give their all. They have a foot out the door. But you can change that!

Whether intentional or subliminal, leadership often gives employees the impression that they’re replaceable—even if you’re actively saying otherwise. People feel undervalued. They don’t want to go all in or build a future with you only to have the rug pulled out from under them.

Action Items:

  • Find ways to show employees they are heard.
  • Invite people to the table to ensure we’re hearing from a broad perspective.

3. Bridge the Perception Gap

Gallup’s 2023 Employee Engagement Survey found that 92% of CEOs care about their employees and empathize with them. At the same time, only 50% of employees perceive this empathy from their leadership.

That sounds like a PR problem. Each of us has a self-perceived image we aim to uphold—an ideal we strive to live up to. You know that you care for your employees’ well-being, even when they don’t see it. Bridging this gap comes down to actively listening to employee needs and finding ways to promote their sense of well-being.

You need to go beyond lip service to impact. Employees are perceptive. There exists a powerful intersection between leadership and employee well-being. You can use this to meaningfully promote well-being while ensuring employees see you as the empathetic leader you are.

Action Items:

  • Actively listen to employee needs by opening communication channels.
  • Make sure employees are aware of the programs available to them.
  • Integrate those programs into your culture.

4. Prioritize Wellness and Well-being

Few single areas deliver this resonating impact more than focusing on enhancing each employee’s sense of well-being and desire to grow with your company—not out of it.

When organizations struggle to attract and retain employees, they often have a toxic work culture filled with negativity and backbiting. These are symptoms of a well-being problem. And they’re fixable when you start building wellness into your company culture.

Action Items:

  • Explore programs that promote physical wellness, mental health and emotional intelligence where employees are encouraged to listen to each other as well.
  • Lead by example. Take part in these programs and demonstrate your value for everyone’s well-being, including your own.
  • Integrate these values into your culture to attract employees who share these values.

Hiring and Retaining Top Talent Starts With Effective Leadership

Global leaders are right. Hiring and retaining top talent is a risk you need to manage. Managing this risk starts with demonstrating the value you place on the people already in your organization. When you do, you may be surprised at how much they’ve been holding back and what you’re capable of achieving as their leader.

Scott Foster is CEO of Wellco, and a recognized expert and speaker regarding leadership and well-being. Wellco delivers award-winning solutions that measurably improve health engagement and outcomes. For more information, contact Wellco.

Attend a Related Learning Event

Learn more from Scott Foster about the intersection of leadership and well-being at Execu/Summit, March 10–15 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in his session, "Empowering Leadership and Wellbeing in Credit Unions: Thriving in Today's Landscape."
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