General Dynamics IT's president Amy Gilliland shares how the people side of the business has changed and why it is crucial to support your people managers if you want to sustain success in the market.
At GDIT, we take pride in being a high-performing “company with a soul” -- one that executes with excellence for our customers while supporting our employees in building careers they love at a company they are proud to be a part of.
The people part of this equation took on a very different meaning earlier this year. While we all hoped to enter 2023 with bold goals and ambitious agendas, it was clear that many among us were struggling to do more than get through every day.
This placed additional pressure on our leaders, who were simultaneously navigating their own challenges. We could not ignore the realization that the role of our people managers had evolved to become more complex — and more critical — than at any other time in recent memory.
In fact, the role of leaders has changed more in just the past three years than in the previous half century. Today, people managers are expected to lead employees who are dealing with increasingly complex issues away from work -- mental and physical health struggles, caregiver responsibilities, and more – while also meeting the ongoing demands that come with supporting our customers’ important missions.
It quickly became very clear that we needed to do more to help ensure their wellbeing and success.
The Year of the People Manager
We knew we had to be more intentional about investing in our people managers so they can do what they do best – lead, engage, and inspire our people and enable our teams to thrive. Why? Because it supports their development and it is good for our customers, our employees, and our business.
In listening to our people managers express their needs, we discovered a common thread: a thirst for resources, for support, for community. With this insight, we declared 2023 the Year of the People Manager and set out to make thoughtful, incremental changes with the potential for meaningful impact, and the response has been enlightening and inspiring to witness.
We kicked off the year with our first-ever People Manager Summit, an opportunity to thank our leaders for all they do and a forum for open discussions about what we collectively must do – and do differently – to continue to evolve our culture and grow our business. Accomplishing it all is a lot – especially after so many years of giving a lot – but I’m grateful they remain “all in” for this pursuit.
We introduced a speaker series with monthly sessions on topics leaders said they needed to be successful. We also launched several professional development programs focused on the skills today’s leaders need to inspire employee engagement and retention.
Community -- at work and outside of work -- is more important now than ever. And, having real-time access to a community – a network of colleagues to collaborate with, a space to share ideas and best practices, crowdsource solutions for business or leadership challenges, or simply offer encouragement and celebrate wins -- is essential for our leaders.
That’s why we created a virtual Year of the People Manager community, a dedicated connection space for all of our leaders. It has since become our largest and most active intranet community.
Embracing Compassion as a Leadership Imperative
I believe leading during these times requires us to tap into our hearts and souls, not just our minds. Leaders at all levels must be intentional in identifying and removing the barriers that prevent people from being their best selves – healthy, innovative, and valued.
We have a responsibility – a privilege – to engage our employees, understand their challenges, their interests and passions, and enable them to contribute, feel a sense of belonging, and build careers they love. We must also hold them accountable for the goals we have asked them to attain.
This is a big ask, and as employers, we have a responsibility to listen, learn, recognize the demands placed on our employees – especially our people managers – and find ways to consistently support and inspire them.
This requires an investment of time, energy, and resources – an investment with the promise of a huge payoff: When people feel seen and supported, when they are led with compassion and trust, they perform. And when they are inspired, they innovate. It’s a win all around.
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