After the events of the past two years, employees are exhausted. They feel overworked and burnt out. This is due to a combination of intense work requirements and outside stressors caused by the pandemic, the economy, and the overall unrest in society.
As organizational leaders, we can only do so much to help with these situations especially when they happen outside of work. The best we could do is not make the workplace a source of unnecessary stress and frustration for our employees. One thing we can do to assist in this transition and ultimately ensure the best outcome for our strategy is to hire the right manager for the job.
What is the right manager?
For the sake of this discussion, we’ll define traditional managers as individuals who are industrial-thinking, process-centered, and output-driven individuals. The right managers, on the other hand, are those who inspire the best work from their team to think more, continuously improve processes, and deliver sustainable output.
While traditional managers champion outputs and production, the right managers champion your organization’s employee value proposition, or EVP. EVP is the value employees perceive to gain through employment with an organization. It’s basically the promise an employer makes to an employee in return for their commitment to the organization.
Gartner reported in 2021 that 65% of job candidates have withdrawn from an application process because organizations failed to meet their expectations. 55% of those candidates were for reasons outside of compensation and benefits. Unfortunately, many organizations do not have an enterprise-level EVP, let alone specific EVPs that cater to specific talent segments within the organization. An EVP for customer service or retail workers is not the same as an EVP that’s catered to IT professionals.
Many organizations may not have formalized EVPs, but hiring the right manager can make a huge difference. These leaders are human-centric, and are capable of empathy and connecting to the emotional state of their employees.
According to Garner, “83% (of employees) say that they want their organizations to see them as a person, not just an employee.” Managers have a crucial role in meeting employee expectations and influencing their overall experience. To be this type of leader, they need to gain the trust of their employees, connect with them emotionally, and generate engagement through empathy.
Though many people have the potential to be great human-centric leaders, many still require the proper tools and training to navigate these situations. Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in conversations around employees’ personal, political, and social issues. Many good leaders still struggle to lead with empathy because they’re not equipped and trained to have appropriate discussions around these topics. They fear saying the wrong thing and are wary of crossing their employees’ personal boundaries.
How to support the right managers?
Simply identifying and hiring the right manager is not enough. Our job is to ensure their success by providing training resources, lightening their workload, and allowing more autonomy.
There is no shortage of good leaders in any organization. The problem is that most of these leaders require new skills to address this new working environment. Also, there is also fear of saying the wrong thing and balancing the effort of connecting with their employees and respecting personal boundaries.
Outside of the obvious need of proper training and instruction, our leaders need a way to hone these skills. HR or an outside vendor who will be providing this training should have a module that will help our leaders practice what they’ve learned. They need a safe place where there’s an expert facilitating these exercises. It’s important for them to practice these skills, so they’ll have opportunities to learn from their mistakes without negatively impacting their relationship with an employee.
If a separate module is not available, organizing a leadership roundtable where leaders can practice or discuss these matters openly would help tremendously.
Supporting our employees should not come at the expense of our leaders. Let’s all recognize that our leaders need bandwidth to learn, practice, and execute on their duties as human-centric leaders. Yes, we all should be able to identify our limits and delegate necessary work when needed. However, these leaders would not be where they’re at now if they don’t have the drive to deliver.
Here is how we can help:
- Establish “deep work” or quiet time—and respect it! – Our organization has done this, blocking “meeting-free” hours during the week. This allows for team members to think and focus on important work.
- Respect off-hours when sending emails, calls, and instant messages. We all have those moments where an idea pops up in our head in the middle of the night. Let’s do our best to not “ping” our direct reports of these things in the middle of the night. This places the expectation that they should always be checking and may be urged to do some work during off-hours. Either wait for the next business day to send it or do a “send later” so that it will not get sent until the next business day.
- Be a human-centric manager yourself. If we expect our leaders to devote time and effort to reach out to their direct reports, be an example and show how you value their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
In today’s hybrid environment, it’s essential to place human-centric leaders to lead your teams. It’s our job to ensure their success by providing them the resources needed to be successful—time, bandwidth, and training.
Don Varela is an IT Service Desk/Help Desk Manager with Navy Federal Credit Union.