07 Jul 2021 19:31 IST

Five challenges facing managers of today

Leaders need to mollify anxieties and strike a balance between saying it as it is and demonstrating empathy

As a leader, one must know how to communicate when times are highly sensitive. The key to build trust at a workplace is transparency. But equally important is to know how much is too much information and what kind of communication works best.

Navigating the competing and challenging priorities that leaders are facing currently requires a delicate act of balancing. This isn’t a time for coaches to lean back. Rather, it’s a time when they need to lean in and reach out. Teams need effective leaders who can help them tide over the crisis. They need someone who can give them a perspective. Here are the top challenges that managers are facing in the current climate:

Uncertain future 

Currently, about 80 per cent of managers are operating without a comprehensive plan and vision of how and why changes are being made. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, existing management models have become redundant and no longer address the hurdles posed by the crisis. This is impacting the mental health of employees, while employers are making rash decisions or putting off crucial decisions until there are more data points to work with.    

Maximising team productivity

All successful organisations have one thing in common: high employee productivity. And for this, tracking and improving team productivity are essential. But in the current scenario, businesses have had to change their working models. It has, thus, become difficult to keep a track of and improve employee productivity due to the continuously evolving workplace. Technology, pandemic, and globalisation have led to these changes. Productivity tracking becomes even trickier for those managers who are supervising a team with different work setups, routines, and time zones. 

Ensuring employee well-being

Covid-19 has proven to be an ominous threat, affecting the health of both businesses and individuals. Nearly 93 per cent of employees have admitted to struggling with mental health in 2020. Working remotely, many have reported feeling less connected with their colleagues. Job insecurity and health concerns on returning to the workplace are other sources of stress. Managers are struggling with the task of eliminating the elements of distance and fear within teams.  

Recruitment decisions 

Recruitment is not an easy task. Employers often struggle to find talent having the right skills. Present-day hiring managers have a tough job ahead of them as they need to hire while adapting to the trends accelerated by the pandemic. Virtual recruitment, employee well-being, and remote working arrangements — all call for a new strategy. Even talent acquisition plans need to be re-examined to attract a diverse pool of candidates. All this has to be concluded with a great on-boarding experience. 

Shaping company culture

Keeping the organisational culture alive will be the biggest challenge for companies in 2021. Company culture is what drives employee engagement and productivity. As more companies adapt to hybrid working models, more dispersed teams have come into existence. Employees working from home also deal with increased isolation. The virtual team interactions are more often restricted to just a team and its manager. Therefore, today’s managers have a greater role to play than ever before in shaping the organisation’s culture. 

Managers, as leaders, have a critical voice in keeping people calm, engaged, and more focused. Given the current circumstances, managers will have to be clear about and also plan for the intentional redundancy of their message to the teams to mollify anxiety, if any. They need to strike the right balance between delivering facts but also being humane and demonstrating empathy.

Managers must bring their team members together, help them expand their focus, give concrete suggestions, and make pragmatic decisions for the betterment of employees and the company. While developing clarity about the present, it’s also important to plan for the future and motivate people to find hope in the chaos. By being careful of the words and message they choose, managers can be a beacon of light in a choppy and ambiguous work environment. 

(The writer is Director, FORE School of Management.)