Before Covid, many organisations had never offered a work-from-home option or thought to change their business model radically. Fast forward a year and look at where we work and how we run business. So much has changed. Some would argue for the better.
Key to business success over the last 12 months has been agility. Agile businesses have focused on achieving better outcomes in an uncertain and evolving environment. Many pivoted their business model, at a strategic level, to adapt and work around the constraints and consequences of the pandemic, for example, restaurants moving to a takeaway service or wholesalers delivering directly to the public. Whilst most have also had to adapt to a home-based workforce too, the most successful have found agile ways to continue to get the best out of their people; helping them to optimise their performance, often and increasingly from a distance. One thing Covid has reminded us is just how important it is to provide an environment in which our most important asset – people – can consistently and willingly deliver their best.
Looking forward, as we (fingers crossed) continue to emerge from restrictions, it will be those businesses that consciously and meaningfully invest in people development; targeting their L&D efforts on performance optimisation in the “new hybrid” (a blend of face to face and virtual homeworking); that will succeed the most.
But where to focus? If people are the most important asset in a business then, it’s no surprise that People Managers are the enablers to optimising performance. But moving forward, they can only do this if they are equipped to manage effectively in the new hybrid. Indeed, whether you are a Business Owner bringing staff back from furlough or a Business/HR Leader who has identified the need to develop broader management capabilities, people managers will need to become more adept at: Gaining and sustaining deep(er) Trust, driving higher levels of Engagement and promoting better Energy management.
Trust is the foundation, the enabler, to all else and managers will need to consciously and consistently focus on how they earn and give trust when remote from others to provide the platform for performance optimisation.
Trust works two ways – Managers need to earn it from their team through their own authenticity, vulnerability and consistency and they need to give it to their team through delegation, confidence and belief in their abilities.
Building trust takes time – Managers have to consciously work at it, especially in a virtual environment, and it can be broken in a moment of inappropriateness, but once achieved and if sustained, the quality of interactions accelerate dramatically.
Managers don’t “do” engagement. It is the beneficial outcome of consistent great people management behaviour where every interaction counts and is an opportunity to have a positive exchange with the other person. The same is true, whether face to face or virtual. Managers need to focus on setting each of their team up for success by giving them role clarity, and the information and equipment they need to be successful. They should help their team members play to their strengths, provide praise and constructive feedback, demonstrate they care and help them grow and develop.
Underpinning these behaviours are the fundamental skills of personal interactions, but as they say, “knowing it is one thing and doing it, consistently, is another”! For example, in a previous article, I’ve explored the importance of listening as a skill, and the ability to demonstrate excellent listening through paraphrasing which takes on even more priority when virtual.
Enabling team members to become more engaged is also about managerial flexibility, adapting the approach based on the needs of the individual and his/her capabilities and focusing on outcomes. In the new hybrid, this will invariably include a requirement for a flexible approach towards balancing home working with office time.
People managers will increasingly need to help team members better understand and manage their own energy levels inside and outside work to enable them to be more effective in doing the job. Managers should provide a supportive environment in which each member of their team can identify their current level of energy and is then empowered with the understanding and autonomy to implement “recharging” rituals to re-balance their energy when needed. Again, this is about outcomes – team members with more energy will be more effective, more consistently in their roles. Managers will need to become more adept at identifying the energy levels of others virtually, as well as their own, and promoting energy and well-being actions.
And finally, even in the “new hybrid”, people are still people, and therefore the core capabilities outlined above reflect the fundamental truth of all great people management – “how do I enable and support the people in my team to be their best?” From your perspective as a Leader, you may well ask the same question to yourself – “How can I enable and support the people managers in my business to be their best?”