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I am a senior leader and I want to make better connections with some of my organization’s new and entry-level employees. How should I go about this process? Elaine Varelas advises

Maintaining good connections with employees at all levels is essential to an organization, especially when it comes to retention. Elaine Varelas advises on how senior leaders can develop and grow their relationships with new and entry-level employees.

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Q: As a senior leader, I find myself disconnected from my entry-level employees. How can I create better connections with these individuals and understand what they need and want from work?

A: It is so positive to hear about a senior leader who is interested in connecting with their entry-level employees. This is the first step toward retention, whether that it is your intent or not. To start, you can create a more effective onboarding process by providing entry-level employees the opportunity to meet with senior leaders. Employees understand this is a time investment, and this opportunity makes it clear that they are an important part of the organization’s success. This also gives senior leaders the chance to talk about the history and culture of the company and find out why this individual joined. During this conversation, you can discover what other skills and drivers this employee has which may prove valuable to both your employee and the organization. These don’t have to be long meetings, but they can be significantly impactful.

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Additionally, as a senior leader, you can take the opportunity to have skip-level meetings so you can meet with the direct reports of your direct reports to find out about their work and personal life. The amount of information people will be willing to share with you in an informal setting can really help develop a personal relationship, allowing employees to connect with you as a person. The more these interactions become part of the organization’s culture, the more candid feedback and creative ideas get shared. And in this market, these kinds of interactions are crucial for retention as they increase the likelihood of employees staying with the company through the development of loyalty and fondness for senior leadership and an understanding of the organization’s mission from the senior leader view.

Other interactions that are powerful include having all levels of employees in town hall meetings and using entry-level employees in visible roles, such as gathering employee data, conducting employee stay interviews, or perhaps acting as a guide for visiting professionals. When you think about visible opportunities, reach into the organization, and nominate a new or entry-level employee. This will help create additional rapport and as these individuals get to know you, they’ll talk about you as a person to their colleagues and communicate what they learned about your vision for the organization and its history.

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Another way to build stronger relationships with entry-level employees is cross-training. You might find that senior leaders as a whole aren’t as technology savvy as some entry-level employees and having a reverse-mentor situation where an entry-level employee can conduct training on a technology they are significantly familiar with can further cement their value. This is particularly important for entry-level employees who are part of a generation other than your own. These kinds of actions have been useful for consumer goods, marketing, and service companies that are looking for generational data. As a leader, what you’re showing doing this is that you value different points of view that often come from different levels within the organization, as well as different age groups.

All of these direct interactions are great opportunities to ask entry-level employees how hard or easy it was to join the organization. Was the application and interview process easy? Did they feel included or excluded? This isn’t a spying mission on HR – it’s a way to find out how to be more inclusive as an organization. And at the end of the day, organizations should have the goal of retaining these entry-level employees so that they may one day become the new senior leaders.

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