Hybrid work is driving businesses to transform with companies taking practical steps to implement strategies to support long term hybrid working. Flexible work arrangements that include when and where the work gets done is a common consideration in organisational workplace policies supporting hybrid work.

However, the role of the people manager and the competencies required to effectively lead others in a hybrid workplace is emerging as a critical topic that businesses must address to ensure organisational success in the future.

According to Gartner the changing role of the manager is one of the top 9 Future of Work Trends that greatly impacts the employee experience post Covid-19 and ‘Enabling managers to manage a hybrid workforce’ and ‘Upskilling leaders to lead in a hybrid environment’ are top challenges when setting strategy for a hybrid workforce.

What’s changed and what’s the big deal?
SAP SuccessFactors analysis of HR business press trends shows the awareness of a new viewpoint on the competencies required. Noting the pandemic has extended both the organisations and leaders’ roles to be more emotionally supportive of their employees, with managers expected to support their team members as whole people with passions, aspirations, and preferences, rather than just workers with a set of skills.

As a result, people managers must balance being an advocate for their team members’ needs while also meeting the expectations of executive leadership and upper management, with this balancing act more pronounced in a remote or hybrid environments.

When you consider that Management can be viewed as ‘managing the work’ – controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal and not necessarily about the people, you being to realise the potential magnitude of the task. Leadership in comparison is characterised as an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organisational success.

In a hybrid environment with fewer opportunities for spontaneous in-person interactions, a workers’ connection to their manager may be stronger than their connection to the organisation as a whole, it follows that the manager-employee relationship is critical in shaping the employee experience and connection to the organisation.

How can you support your managers to make the transition?
The SAP SuccessFactors analysis provides a perspective and fledgling insights on the skills required and the role HR Practitioners and HR Technology can play in assisting both existing managers of people in making this transition to be holistically supportive of team members’ work and non-work experiences and in the selection of future managers of people.

HR needs to come to the fore
Analysis of how leadership and management roles have changed in the organisation should be undertaken by HR and reflected in updated job descriptions, performance management criteria, and succession-planning practices.

For example, rethinking the role of management in the employee journey not as a necessary step in the career ladder recognising that not everyone should or wants to be a people manager, but rather organisations that focus more on identifying and developing the most effective and supportive people managers will create better teams and a better culture. Proactively addressing people manager burnout from having to quickly learn new and complex management skills is also identified as a well-being action item for HR.

Technology can be your friend and your foe
While it would seem obvious that the effective use of HR Technology to support processes virtually which have historically been in person, such as performance and succession planning roundtable discussions is a must; As is ‘freeing up’ People managers time to be more supportive of employees by automating administrative tasks, increasing automation also places more emphasis on certain “human-centered” skills, such as empathy which remain central to leader’s role and arguably even increase in importance in a hybrid workplace.

Human Centred Skills are a must
People Managers can no longer manage just for performance they must also manage for experience. The Human-centric skills that are generally associated with impacting workforce health and operations include empathy, agility, creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence. Gartner suggests that equipping leaders for the Hybrid workplace is a key area of opportunity for organisations to evolve their approach towards Human Leadership, where leaders are:

Authentic – Act with purpose and enable true self-expression, for both themselves and their teams.

Empathetic – Show genuine care, respect and concern for employees’ well-being.

Adaptive – Enable flexibility and support that fit team members’ unique needs.

Recruiting, promoting, and managing employees with human centred skills which reflect personal characteristics in addition to experience, however, raises further challenges to ensure these processes do not promote inequity.

It is clear that in a Hybrid workplace all people manager roles need to be more emotionally supportive of their employees. The transition to Human Leadership should be part of your company’s strategy to support long term hybrid working. Although this change was borne of the pandemic, an evolution to Human Leadership is a change that will benefit us all, employees, managers, and leaders and above all humanity.

Interested in sharing your company’s perspective on the Transformation of People Management? Our SAP SuccessFactors Growth and Insights team is looking for Customers to participate in our research study. Or continue the discussion by joining us at HR Connect 2022 in Sydney on 30 August and Auckland on 6 September or watch the live stream on 30 August.