How managers have evolved through the pandemic

Over the last two years, team managers have had to juggle multiple responsibilities and learn new tricks to keep the operations from stagnating

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Just two years ago, the role of team managers used to be a lot simpler. They had to lead their teams to accomplish a shared goal, and keep them disciplined while working on it. They moved from one work to another with relative ease, because the circumstances around them remained unchanged. There was no threat big enough to disrupt the daily grind. Everyone expected things to be more or less the same as time went by, with plenty of opportunities to adapt to new changes.

However, the pandemic shook everything and everyone to the core. Organisations had to adapt to the new circumstances or else risk being crushed under the weight of the deluge of work and resultant incompetency. Managers struggled to keep the team members alert and the work flowing as smoothly as possible. As the situation worsened, and the world went under lockdown, the team managers found themselves having to stretch further to fulfill several duties, remain connected with all their team members, and also find ways to complete their immediate goals and plans for the future.

“Earlier, the team managers used to take the members for granted, paying little attention to their wellbeing”

Nihar Ghosh, former President Human Resources, Emami

Managing workplace engagement

Jayant Kumar, head – HR, Adani Ports & SEZ, says, “One of the most profound changes have been in the team managers’ ability to manage workplace engagement.”

During the pandemic, managers had to look after their own families, as well as the holistic wellbeing of their teams. They had to fix their ways of working; essentially looking at any disruption that may cause delays in work, drive the day-to day agendas during meetings and keep the members equally engaged with the work. With time, the managers acquired competency and comfort with the kind of changes they were dealing with.

Embracing technology

Technological advancements — not limited to Zoom and other such tools meant for online interactions alone, but tech enablers — that had been available to the organisations even before the pandemic, but weren’t put to use are now being utilised.

Rajesh Nair, executive president and CHRO, Polycab India, states, “In the manufacturing industry, there is always a need for people on the ground to look after the work. Therefore, even during the pandemic, we had to continue working to deliver the products.”

“A lot of functional processes such as dealership, as well as factoring and making decisions about dispatching materials had to be done remotely. This caused a lot of logistical issues in the beginning, which have been smoothened out since then,” says Nair.

“Learning how to review the work remotely, and generating ideas during Zoom calls has been challenging, because earlier, a lot of it used to happen in the presence of the team members without any hitch,” Nair points out. In the past, team managers found it easier to make plans and give execution advice with every member physically present in the same room.

“In the manufacturing industry, there is always a need for people on the ground to look after the work. Therefore, even during the pandemic, we had to continue working to deliver the products”

Rajesh Nair, executive president and CHRO, Polycab India

Informal activities such as bonding with the teammates, and checking on each other’s wellbeing has also undergone change. That is because, even with a hybrid model in place in many organisations, the interactions aren’t the same any more, as Nair points out.

Regaining trust

However, even though the pandemic has introduced several challenges at the workplace, Nair asserts that the team managers have acquired a lot of trust in their employees after going through a difficult period of time together, and the overall productivity has been better too.

Paying attention to employee wellbeing

Nihar Ghosh, former President Human Resources, Emami, believes there hasn’t been a change in the role of the team managers, but the way in which they treat their fellow members. “Earlier, the team managers used to take the members for granted, paying little attention to their wellbeing,” he states. All this, however, has changed and the managers have shown a greater understanding of their team members’ concerns and learnt to be more compassionate toward them.

“One of the most profound changes have been in the team managers’ ability to manage workplace engagement”

Jayant Kumar, head – HR, Adani Ports & SEZ

Learning and unlearning

As the world opens up, slowly but steadily, there is little certainty that we’re ever going to go back to working the way we used to. Not all changes caused by the pandemic have been welcomed by the organisations. Some have experienced drastic outcomes, but it has resulted in widespread learning as well as unlearning of a few old habits.

Team managers have had to perform some of the toughest tasks in handling not only the work, as it is being done now, but also looking after their workforce.

Of course, even the hardest efforts don’t guarantee 100 per cent success, but in the wake of this sudden transformation, managers have adapted to their newly-altered responsibilities with as much dedication as is possible. Hopefully, they will continue to make new breakthroughs in the future as well.

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