How can HR support the changing role of the manager in a hybrid workplace?

Lizzie Buxton

Written By AdviserPlus

23rd February 2022

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According to a recent survey from the Chartered Institute of Management, more than 80% of the managers who took part in the survey said that their firm had adopted hybrid working – most, prompted to do so by the pandemic. The pandemic changed the dynamic of managing teams and hybrid working will almost certainly make new demands of people managers.

Leaders and managers have a significant role to play in the transition to hybrid work as well as its future success. Leading and managing hybrid teams requires an adaptation of approach: whilst an entirely new management skill set is not required, some aspects of day-to-day people management (such as communication, relationship building and performance management) will become more important than ever before.

So how can HR ensure that they are providing the correct support to managers in a hybrid workplace?

Here are our five top tips:

Provide training to manage hybrid teams effectively

Given that HR teams are the gatekeepers to learning and development, they have the ability to connect managers – especially those who are new to the role – with key manager training. Training can touch on many different skills, from brushing up on communication skills to learning how to give actionable feedback. Giving managers the opportunity to develop better skills to manage a remote workforce can alleviate the guesswork and give them the confidence and skills necessary to manage their teams. At AdviserPlus, our Learning Solutions team provide a range of courses to help businesses give their managers the skills needed to manage hybrid teams effectively including performance management, remote communication, collaboration and relationship building. It is worth noting that training shouldn’t be reserved for new managers – HR can help experienced managers become more efficient in managing a hybrid workforce.

Develop empathetic skills

In a recent report, Gartner states that to succeed in a hybrid work environment and offer radical flexibility to employees, managers need to lead with empathy. Given the substantial and lasting shifts the workforce has undergone as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations must prioritise developing empathy in their managers, that is, a manager who can contextualise employee performance and behaviour — who transcends simply understanding the facts of work, proactively asks questions and seeks information to place themselves in their direct reports’ contexts. Managers who display high levels of empathy have three times the impact on their employees’ performance than those who display low levels. Meeting the need for empathy requires investments in solutions to these three manager barriers. To overcome the barriers and enable managers to lead with empathy, HR leaders need to:

  • Encourage managers to practice having vulnerable conversations. See more information on our Building Emotional Intelligence course for how we can help with this.
  • Empower a new manager mindset by creating a network of support who have a clear understanding of ways to embed empathy in day-to-day workflows.
  • Create manager capacity to concentrate on empathy and the individual by reprioritising workflows and giving them the tools to make managing employee relations

Get your policies in order

As an organisation, it’s important to have an overall strategic position on hybrid working. Developing clear and comprehensive policies and guidance on flexible working and hybrid working, for both managers and employees, will help everyone know where they stand. HR teams should provide managers with training on assessing and managing hybrid working requests fairly and consistently, including relevant legislation on flexible working and discrimination.

Measure through outcomes

Gone are the days when managers could walk down the aisles and peek at workstations to confirm that employees are focused on a task. Hybrid work requires a greater degree of trust between leaders and their teams, and an organisational culture that’s focused on outcomes rather than the hours worked to achieve them. Successful performance management for a hybrid workplace is ultimately about setting clear goals and shifting the focus away from time spent, to results achieved.

Strengthen your relationship with managers

Managing people doesn’t always come easy, and this is where HR experts can be particularly helpful and enable them to navigate complex issues they may not have had previous experience with. These challenges can range from managing low-performing employees to sickness absence and compliance issues.

HR and managers can work together and be proactive about the culture challenges employees might face. For instance, say a manager notices that their team is starting to show signs of burnout, the HR team could work with them to introduce effective wellbeing programs to combat this problem before it becomes a widespread issue across the organisation.

HR can play a huge role when it comes to helping managers achieve their goals and doing so will ultimately benefit everyone involved. While managers are encouraged to reach out to HR when they need support, there’s a lot that HR teams can offer proactively to support leadership. Our empower® solution does exactly that. Visit our Empowering Managers webpage to find out more.

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