What have we learned about management two years after the first confinement?
This period has been incredibly difficult and exceptionally trying for new and experienced managers.
‘Manager’ took a whole new meaning for a certain time. Even more than in the pre-pandemic era, employees looked to their managers for psychological and emotional help as well as professional support. In addition to massive layoffs and furloughs, we were dealing with some really scary cases of illness.
There was no shortage of stress and managers were tasked with many things: setting up team members remotely, maintaining and in many cases exceeding production targets, motivating team members, dealing with often difficult economic and business realities, while showing empathy. and put a brave face on their teams.
The new managers have been the hardest hit
If experienced managers were thrown into the deep end, new managers drowned. We tend to underestimate the importance and value of in-person human interaction until it suddenly disappears. Imagine trying to learn about people management for the very first time via a screen without any hint of social engagement from face-to-face communication. How can I create personal links with my team? How do you know who does what? How to monitor the output? What should be an email, chat, video call, or normal call? Am I micro-managing? How do you know who is in trouble?
For the majority of managers who didn’t yet have fully or mostly remote teams, tooling was a nightmare. Overnight, monitoring of team progress, processes, workload, wellness, and everything else had to go online. Managers grabbed everything they had at their disposal – Google Docs, sticky notes, chat windows, physical paper, anything and everything. The result was a large amount of unstructured information that could not be tracked or acted upon. All existing bad management habits have been multiplied by 100 during the pandemic.
We are in the midst of a crisis right now with the number of people managers ready to throw in the towel. Managers are twice as likely to look for a new job as individual contributors; and manager burnout increased by 25% in 2021 alone.
Things have since improved but there is still work to be done
Two years after the start of the first confinement, are managers better off than at the start of 2020? Yes and no. Yes, organizations accept that the workforce changes and evolves. Young employees seek participatory leadership.
They want coaching and mentoring, not just directives, which requires a new type of manager.
Yes, this new “norm” of hybrid work has given way to a host of new productivity technologies that make remote working easier and remote management more efficient.
On the other hand, organizations have yet to fully realize the colossal impact managers have on everything from operations and employee retention to the bottom line. Companies still have to figure out how to develop better managers. Instead of in-person management seminars, we now have webinars and more frequent employee engagement surveys. It does not move the needle. Truly forward-thinking organizations will invest in ongoing leadership development and support as part of day-to-day life to bring out the best in teams, as they can see the value of great people managers from the top down.
No one claims to be a bad manager
Every manager wants to be successful, but traditionally organizations have given very little thought to what being a “good” manager really entails. Instead, individuals are promoted to leadership positions and left to learn an entirely new set of skills on the job and on their own.
So what can organizations do to upskill and support their managers in today’s world of hybrid to fully remote working? The answer is a solution that combines technology and behavioral science techniques that can be used by individual managers to improve their performance in a measurable, continuous and sustainable way.
At Piper, we develop tools and technologies that can develop managers by providing analytical data on their specific performance as a manager, revealing targeted opportunities for improvement and development. These will make their lives easier and boost managers’ performance by facilitating better communication and greater empathy. Additionally, they can provide contextual learning that can be integrated into daily work.
There is a time and a place for training, whether in person or virtual. However, removing managers from the realities of their environment and their day-to-day responsibilities is less effective and sustainable than learning embedded in various real-life management scenarios and designed to engender incremental behavior change. Redefining management in this way will make the job better for everyone – and for good.
Sathya Smith is CEO and Founder of People Management Solution Piper.