Developing your managers for the new world of work

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Written by Kate Pritchard

As we move into the new world of work managers face a new set of challenges, making it vital to equip them to thrive in this changing environment.

Remember that people don’t automatically become great managers when they are promoted. In fact, in many organizations, managers are promoted solely due to their technical excellence without much thought about their suitability or desire for people management responsibilities, and without much support. At best this means they learn through their mistakes, temporarily impacting team morale and engagement. At worst it causes staff to leave and causes long-term damage to the business, and the manager themselves.

Therefore, managers need to be supported and nurtured by senior management if they are to overcome the challenges that they face. There are three key areas that help when supporting managers:

1. Build a supportive culture

For managers to perform at their best and to be engaging leaders, they themselves need to feel supported and given the time and attention they need to improve their leadership skills. Managing managers effectively is, therefore, vital – they need ongoing support and coaching from senior leaders to practice and improve their skills.

Developing managers should be part of every leader’s role. All managers should be expected and encouraged to tap into their potential and focus on leadership development. Feedback is central to this. Provide managers with the time and opportunity to ask for, and receive, feedback from their teams and their own managers. That way they can understand their strengths and weaknesses, and pinpoint development areas.

2. Understand the importance of managers to the employee experience

It’s often said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers. This is now more true than ever – the behavior of managers impacts employee engagement and the employee experience (EX). Managers need to understand what they can do to ensure that their people have the best possible experience at work in order to keep their teams engaged and motivated.

It is crucial that managers are aware of the role they have in relation to EX. They must therefore understand how important it is for them to create a great employee experience and champion the needs of their team. That requires the development of effective people management skills.

3. Focus on people management skills

Strong people management skills are now more important than ever, particularly when you are managing teams that may never all be in the same place at the same time.

Recent research by Anderson and Adams identified that what sets apart the most effective leaders is strong people skills. Six out of ten of the biggest strengths of the most effective and engaging managers related to people skills. These included listening, developing others, and empowering their team members.

In flatter, team-based structures, old styles of hierarchical command and control management and leadership simply won’t work. What is needed is what analyst Josh Bersin calls “human-centered leadership”, putting your people first to drive success.

That requires managers to be trained and supported to understand, develop and deploy skills such as listening, team building, coaching, and motivation. Managers need to make time to listen to their people, facilitate connections within teams, and support the development of their people. Effective management means making themselves available for their team on a day-to-day basis, recognizing and celebrating successes.  This is even more true in a remote world where for some employees, their only workplace interaction is with their line manager.

In the new world of work, the skills and behaviors required to be a successful manager are changing. All while the importance of good managers is increasingly central to business effectiveness and a great employee experience. However, managers cannot be expected to thrive unaided. They need support, guidance, and feedback to improve and therefore get the best out of themselves and their teams.