You know the stats, we’re sure. Business success has always hinged on great managers. Gallup say managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement, for instance, and great managers contribute 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.
But when business-as-usual becomes total business overhaul, managers are even more important.
As the gatekeepers of employee experience, managers have a huge impact on how their teams experience the return-to-work. Especially if you’re shifting to a hybrid working model, like the 87% of leaders we heard from in our Hybrid Workforce Revolution Report.
Although there’ll be a necessary backdrop of organizational process and policy change, managers are the all-important delivery mechanism. Managers help determine whether their teams feel supported, engaged, empowered, and positive or overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, and negative.
It’s no over-exaggeration to say the success of your next few months – and ultimately, the successful evolution of the organization – hinges on your managers.
Here are five tactics to support managers through this transition period, and make hybrid work a success.
1 – Get all your managers together
Being a good manager is hard enough anyway. Being an employee navigating a pandemic and huge workplace change is hard enough anyway. And now we’re asking managers to combine both those things?!
Your managers might feel completely lost right now. They’ve likely got heaps of questions and uncertainties themselves and are operating waaaaay outside their comfort zone. Get all your managers together, to answer their questions, set expectations, discuss anxieties, and explore tactics to overcome challenges.
(A slack channel or recurring meeting could be a non-judgmental space for managers to share problems as they develop and learn new approaches from one another.)
It’s important to keep managers continually informed and aligned around company strategy over the coming months. Every organization is bound to face challenges, setbacks, and murmurs of discontent. Managers must champion leadership strategy downwards, not ‘take sides’ with their team (or risk fragmenting organizational culture to the point of causing major engagement and retention issues).
2 – Dedicate attention to managers’ mental health
You can’t pour from an empty bucket, as the saying goes. Managers are under extraordinary pressure right now, more so than non-management employees.
Our research showed 66% of employees are feeling burnt-out, for example, which is bad enough – but among people leaders that leaps to 81%. And 35% said they were experiencing burnout to an extreme degree – 169% more than employees who said the same.
Pay special attention to your managers’ and leaders’ mental health, to ensure they’re protecting themselves appropriately.
If burnout among people leaders is allowed to develop unchecked, the future leadership bench faces a very real threat. (And as Josh Bersin said at EDGE last year, only 20% of companies believe they have a strong leadership bench as it is).
3 – Encourage managers to personalize support
Our research showed the majority of employees are either thriving (47%) or completely unphased by hybrid work (36%) – but a minority (17%) admitted they were finding it difficult not being in the office daily.
Encourage managers to take an empathetic and explorative approach, to discover who in their team might need extra support and how.
- Maybe Cathie can’t wait to return to the office, for example, but she’s battling with a lot of health anxiety since the pandemic.
- Or James has moved his elderly parents from residential care into his home so has new obligations and pressures on his time.
- Or Ajay loves working from home but isn’t confident using your new remote collaboration tools and processes, and feels embarrassed.
- Perhaps Amara is nervous about how her children will adapt back to regular childcare, and also socially anxious about seeing colleagues again.
Managers need the training, tools, and – critically – time, to properly support their teams, as individuals. If that’s an addition to their existing workloads, it either won’t happen – leaving employees adrift – or it’ll happen at the expense of extreme manager burnout.
Re-evaluate priorities and performance targets across the business to create space for better people management.
4 – Provide the right resources
The shift to hybrid working means lots of change:
Managers might be conducting remote interviews instead of in-person, for example. Or handling hybrid onboarding. You might have new dress codes for virtual meetings. Team members might need to collaborate without being in the same physical location for the first time. Working parents might have new childcare arrangements that impact when they’re online.
Empower managers to confidently manage new situations from a process, policy, and tool perspective, to promote confidence in leadership and avoid resentments brewing or issues spiralling.
(If it’s not already on your radar, the Atlassian Team Playbook is an amazing collection of free resources for managers and teams. Since Dominic Price told us about it last year, they’ve also added resources around remote working that your managers might find helpful.)
Ensure managers can confidently direct employees to the right resources too. Before COVID, 85% of employees said they were losing at least 1-2 hours of productivity a week searching for information. That’s a major productivity drain – and it’s probably increased dramatically as employees face new challenges and troubleshoot new issues. Managers can play a critical role helping their teams get the support they need fast.
5 – Encourage managers to model boundary-setting
In our research, 90% of leaders said their organization cares about work-life balance – but as we all know, caring and taking action to enact change are two different things.
Not least because our research – like almost every report before it – highlighted a major communication disconnect between leadership and employees. As ever, leadership think they’re doing a better job than they are.
Managers are critical to transform talk into action. If your leadership care about work-life balance, managers must model the appropriate behaviors or it’s a hollow proclamation.
For example… do managers answer emails or send Slack messages late into night? Do they take holiday? Are they seen to “push through” mental health problems, or take the time they need to recover? Do they push back on unrealistic deadlines, or do they pass them along to their team?
Enacting change in the business starts from empowering change in your managers.
If you’re a regular in these here parts, you’ll know we’re huge manager champions. We’ve always believed – thanks to heaps of evidence from our fabulous customers – that getting managers on-side with change is integral to protecting employee engagement during all major transition moments. Empowering managers to do a great job, without adding to their existing workload, is what we do best.