Four leadership tips that could help you successfully navigate a tight labour market

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Article by Clare Spratt

Institute for Fiscal Studies data reveals there were around 500,000 fewer people in paid work in the UK during the first quarter of 2022 than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tight labour market – exacerbated by Brexit – has created a host of new issues for businesses and their leaders. Jobseekers are more demanding than ever before, expecting higher salaries – fuelled, in part, by the cost-of-living crisis – better benefits, and more workplace flexibility than ever before. All too often, successful candidates are declining job offers after securing 11th hour opportunities with more favourable terms and conditions elsewhere.

All this is creating a new leadership crisis, with leaders and managers struggling to offer and maintain equality across teams; juggling to manage teams working a mix of in-person, hybrid and remote; and under pressure because of rising costs and reducing profits.

HR Recruit Senior Recruitment Executive Jo Thompson has first-hand experience of this. She said, “Just last week, I was involved in a last-minute negotiation because a candidate wanted a true hybrid role from day one, while the employer wanted the candidate to spend the first few months working from the office to better understand the role and company culture. Companies everywhere – although especially in London – are having to flex because it’s a tight labour market and candidates are more demanding about what expect and what they’ll accept.”

With this backdrop, I wanted to bring together some leadership tips that could help you successfully navigate a tight labour market and avoid burning out.

Understand yourself

Create a solid foundation by investing in yourself and building awareness. Awareness of self helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses; where and how you can add most value; how to challenge appropriately; and how to turn your ideas into new realities.

With a greater understanding of yourself and how you are perceived by others, you can make better, more informed decisions about how you ‘show up’ for people – and achieve better outcomes.

Understand others

Taking the time to understand others – their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes – helps you become more understanding and accepting of others, able to adapt and connect, and collaborate more effectively to achieve better business outcomes. I’ve found that Insights Discovery is best model because it’s simple to understand and easy to use.

For example, people with a preference for Fiery Red energy are usually strong-willed and purposeful; to collaborate with them successfully, you’re better focusing on outcomes and the best way to achieve them. Sunshine Yellow is sociable, dynamic, and persuasive, and people with this personality preference thrive on social interaction. People with strong Earth Green energy seek harmony and will appear caring and patient. Finally, Cool Blue energy is precise, deliberate and questioning; embracing this colour energy can help to enable more data-driven, better-informed decision-making.

Communicate with empathy

People are much more receptive – and responsive – to an open and honest two-way style of communication. Take time to regularly engage your people and be an active listener so that you can hear what is being said, and not being said. With empathetic communication, you increase the likelihood of building solid relationships, creating community, and achieving hoped-for outcomes.

The language you use is also essential; where possible, share communication preferences and depersonalise language. By taking a 5% step towards the preference of each other, we are 10% more aligned – and that makes a huge difference. That’s 10% more effective communications, 10% more trust, 10% more harmony in a team, 10% more productivity, and 10% better collaboration.

Build community

One of the best ways to build community is to ideate as a team – sharing ideas, discussing them together, and implementing the best ones. Replace blame with curiosity by depersonalising failures and focusing instead on why it went wrong. What can be learned from the experience? What could be done differently next time? How could this experience support others to achieve better outcomes next time? When tasks are delivered, take the opportunity to remind everyone how the idea came about, the role everyone played, and the contributions made – and then celebrate as a team.

It’s a challenging time for leaders and managers, but these four tips should help bring teams together – regardless of a tight labour market and its many demands – and ensure there is trust, psychological safety, and community in the workplace. With those in place, your people will be better equipped to withstand the myriad of challenges in the VUCA world of work that we find ourselves in.

About the author

Clare SprattClare Spratt is a People Development Consultant and Facilitator at Netley Consulting.

After 18 years working in learning and development, I set up Netley Consulting, a boutique consultancy offering programme design, learning delivery, and workshops for leaders and their teams.

I help businesses achieve their goals by focusing on people; that’s because businesses only truly succeed when people feel valued, are supported to develop and grow, and there is a culture of mutual respect and appreciation.

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