Build and nurture your employees’ authenticity | Sunday Observer

Build and nurture your employees’ authenticity

Do you want your team members to think and act like all the rest of the team and bring in the same or similar values, or do you want them to have what you don’t have so that you have more collective power as a team? Do we consider differences as an asset?

The world is fast paced, consumer tastes keep changing frequently, competition makes you outdated pretty fast, and good employee retention has become more challenging than ever before.

Like human beings, each employee is unique and authentic in many ways and when nurtured can offer business benefits. We all look for the right ‘organisational and cultural fit’ when hiring new employees; questions are asked to ascertain and affirm that the new employees can jell well with the employees for the sake of harmony.

Does accepting and encouraging authenticity help the business?

Staying as they do with conventional wisdom, Sri Lankan businesses rarely have promoted or invested in employee authenticity as a major competitive advantage, a value-creating factor and driver of growth in the dynamic field of business.

Crucial asset

Modern global management thinking has tested and concluded that it is a crucial asset worth building, hence widely practised. Much of our mental energy, our ideas, our passions, our physical effort and our time are deployed at work.

The work we do goes some way to describing who we are, and what we stand for. The same innovation and creativity we preach all the time can get stifled when authenticity is discouraged. Most of us engage in self-presentation in the workplace at least occasionally.

We manage our behaviour, emotions, or the way we are perceived by coworkers and bosses. We do it for a variety of reasons: Some people feel they cannot freely express emotions at work, others believe they cannot share their sense of humour, and still others feel they must ‘have it all together’ or risk hurting their reputation or credibility.

What does it mean to be ‘authentic’ at work?

Think of authenticity as the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit or character, despite external pressure, enforced or shaped by the practices of the co-workers.

People should ‘be themselves’ at work as much as they are in their private life. They recognise who they are, without pretending to be something else, without wearing a mask to make themselves more palatable to others, and without suppressing their own important styles and values.

They bring the whole self to work ‘every day’ within which the ‘best of each person’ comes out. The prize that this offers at individual level is significant. It includes greater levels of engagement, well-being, productivity, and commitment. People achieve higher levels of motivation by applying their own thoughts and experiences to the task in hand.

They take pride in the work they do and leverage their strengths to the job. They also learn much more due to a deeper personal application.

Do your employees believe that being genuine creates stronger and better relationships with customers and coworkers because of a greater understanding of one another and higher level of trust?

Leadership commitment

Although employee authenticity boosts productivity and creates a positive work environment, it is equally important that leaders welcome authenticity from their employees.

Creating an open-minded and accepting environment where differences in perspective and opinions are encouraged, sets the foundation for an authentic workplace. Employees should be encouraged to express themselves and not simply follow the crowd, because differences in viewpoints often lead to innovative, novel solutions.

Creating a workplace that is inclusive of diverse employees is highly dependent upon leaders’ behaviour. Inclusive leaders must model comfort with diversity, alter rules for acceptable behaviour to ensure wide application, create opportunities for dialogue about and across differences, demonstrate an interest in learning and be authentic about their own challenges and triumphs to encourage authenticity in others to ensure that employees feel a sense of group acceptance and value for their individual uniqueness.

Employees who feel included are more likely to experience greater self-worth. Where there is greater authenticity organisations will adapt more quickly and much more effectively to the volatile circumstances of the operating environment. This is a ‘win-win’ situation that is worth fighting for and investing in, so as to build a competitive advantage.

While differences between people can stimulate progress and innovation, large discrepancies or ‘non-value creating behaviour’ have to be managed to really benefit from the concept of the authentic employee.