The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown have been great disruptors. While some disruptions have been really damaging, others have been for the good. Due to the lockdown worldwide, one positive change in people’s professional life has been the growing popularity of telecommuting or work-from-home (WFH).
Companies have realised the benefits of WFH and are ready to bring in further alterations to make the practice more prevalent.
It is a belief that in the new normal, with more people working from home, managers will lose their relevance. If, by ‘managers’, what people mean is ‘watchdogs’, then they are certainly not needed any more.
Till the time there is a human to human interface in the system, whether through virtual presence or physical, the role of the manager cannot be undermined, though it may undergo a change
Agrees Venkatramana B, group president HR, Landmark Group, “When employees are aware of their jobs, managers need not be deployed to oversee if the work is done or not. Rather, they need to see whether the employees need some assistance or help in order to finish the work.”
“At first pass, this comes across as a fair question, but when you think a little more deeply, it is easy to figure out that there is more than just management that an employee wants from her manager,” explains Raj Raghavan, Sr. VP and head-HR, IndiGo.
The biggest reset in the role of the ‘manager’ that I envision will be the move from a ‘command and control’ approach to an ‘inspire and mentor’ one
Raghavan shares that this lockdown has taught him several things. The first and foremost being the warmth of connection, which the managers have shared with their teammates.
Did she look out for me while I was juggling my household chores versus work assignments? Was she empathetic to my overall needs as an employee? Did she make me feel valued at work? How frequently did she connect with me? The list can only get bigger.
“So, one thing is certain. How one felt working from home had a lot to do with how connected one was with one’s manager. Also, it is obvious that the manager’s role was not just to supervise the work, productivity and output, but also to make one feel a part of the whole,” states Raghavan.
managers will be required to quickly adapt, learn and flex their leadership and team management styles to be effective in their new avatars
Anurag Verma, Sr. HR director, Uniphore, believes that managers will be required to quickly adapt, learn and flex their leadership and team management styles to be effective in their new avatars. This will require them to transform from being conventional managers to becoming step-up leaders. They will need to be empathetic and good communicators, capable of guiding, developing, empowering and coaching their teams. They have to be capable of effectively reviewing team and individual performance, on a regular/weekly basis.
Verma opines that effective managers will have to take a balanced approach towards acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may feel in difficult circumstances, such as the pandemic. However, they should also provide affirmation of their confidence in their teams — that they are with them and that together they will come out stronger and emerge as winners post this phase. “With this approach of empathy, support, trust, coaching, efficient reviews, as well as effective and frequent communication, employees are more likely to accept and follow their managers and take on this challenging phase with a sense of purpose and focus, and end up emerging victorious,” believes Verma.
Harshvendra Soin, CPO, Tech Mahindra states that in the current scenario, managers will have to balance business outcomes and wellbeing. While business leaders can provide clarity and direction, it is the managers who will have to offer day-to-day support and ensure employees’ wellbeing, progression and productivity.
when you think a little more deeply, it is easy to figure out that there is more than just management that an employee wants from her manager
Soin further explains, “Post-COVID, new people dimensions will emerge for organisations following a work-from-home module — moments that matter will now include ‘at home’ experiences. There will be a sharp increase in diverse and alternative workforce, namely gig workers, contractors, freelancers and so on. The biggest reset in the role of the ‘manager’ that I envision will be the move from a ‘command and control’ approach to an ‘inspire and mentor’ one. Managers will be required play the role of ‘success coach’. They will have to move from ‘generalisation’ to ‘specialisation’, helping the teams to succeed in their engagements.”
All this will be possible only if managers shift their mindsets and lead with purpose. After all, purpose is the deepest driver of wellbeing, and goal achievement and productivity need purpose.
Andleeb Jain, CPO, JK Cement, has completely different view on this. “It is an accepted fac that there will be a new normal for workplaces, and many organisations have already announced their plans to reduce the physical presence of staff in offices. Still, these announcements are limited not only in number, but also to very few sectors.”
“Till the time there is a human to human interface in the system, whether through virtual presence or physical, the role of the manager cannot be undermined, though it may undergo a change,” asserts Jain.
When employees are aware of their jobs, managers need not be deployed to oversee if the work is done or not
“Talking specifically about manufacturing or construction, here the workforce required at the project site, or, manufacturing facility (especially shop floor) will not change to a large extent unless until there is a disruption due to technology, which requires lesser manpower. Of course, the processes, precautions and the manner of social interaction may change, but again, to what extent these will change remains to be seen,” adds Jain.
Role of manager will definitely be altered, but it will not cease to exist. The manager’s presence will be required in the allocation of resources, management of talent, job rotations, career progressions, conflict management, skilling or any other phase of the employee lifecycle.
Though leaders will keep playing their role of giving a direction and purpose to the organisation, and defining values and beliefs, managers will still play a crucial role in implementing the organisation’s mission and vision to the last man standing,” concludes Jain.