The pandemic has been a life-changing event for everyone, and a role defining one for all managers. While CXOs have taken a hit because of the pandemic, lower-level and mid-level managers entered a unique period in their careers where they realized the true meaning of being a manager, perhaps for the first time.
In the pre-pandemic period, a lot of managers limited themselves to delegating tasks and attending back-to-back meetings; they did not fully push themselves to go beyond their meetings and delegation. This behavior seeped into their teams; most of the team limited themselves to ticking tasks off their to-do list. The biggest disadvantage of such an attitude was the absence of growth — both in terms of the individual team members and the company as a whole.
How managers are growing in their roles during this crisis
As companies struggled to survive the pandemic, CXOs were the brave warriors battling it out with investors, stakeholders, and the workforce. This led to most companies emerging as a decentralized organization —the managers were left to tend to their teams on their own with no guidance from the upper-level management.
Managers have started to own their responsibilities and no longer wait for approvals from their superiors to usher in new changes within their teams. This new-found independence has helped managers realize the need to stand strong for their team — which was missing in most workplaces earlier. This is perhaps because CXOs are no longer overseeing and inspecting each aspect as minutely as they were before. Or, the entry of COVID-19, has made managers overlook the irrelevant things and instead focus on the bigger picture. Whatever the reason may be, it certainly pushed managers to fight and own their battles and be more empathetic to their teams.
In the second episode of Culture Club, we talk about the evolving role of managers in e-Culture, and dive into the changes managers are undergoing, in great detail. Ramakrishna Vyamajala, Head of HR at HomeFirst Finance Company, points out that managers have started seeing their team members as individuals for the first time now. They now realize that each team member has a story and their own set of struggles while also being an employee of a company.
Why managers should increase engagement with their teams
A study by Gallup found that there has been a rise in employee engagement since the start of the pandemic — in early May, 38% of employees were engaged. This shows that managers across all levels in an organization have now realized the need to engage with their team attentively and continuously. They understand that team members need to be seen and understood beyond their roles and to establish a relationship with them, especially during a crisis. This might require some effort from the HR team as well since they might help managers meetings, activities, and tools for their teams specifically instead of general company-wide tools and activities as is the norm usually.
To quote Ramakrishna, "Managers and HRs need to come up as mini CEOs now. If they don’t try to balance both organizational and employee growth, then they are at a higher risk of losing their team’s confidence which is extremely important during a crisis."
Although the employee engagement rate has increased tremendously, there are still cases of active disengagement that managers can help improve. According to Gallup, there is about 13% of active disengagement in U.S. employees. Managers need to focus specifically on individuals who are visibly disengaged for the majority of the time.
Virtual employee engagement ideas for managers
Now that things have gone online and everyone is working remotely, managers need to come up with virtual employee engagement ideas. It’s indeed a first for almost all managers. There were just a handful of companies that had all their teams working remotely even before the pandemic hit us. This is a learning process for most managers so we have listed out a few virtual employee engagement ideas that managers can refer to improve and increase engagement within their teams:
- Virtual coffee sessions
Communicating only online has seen an increase in team members reaching out to each other for tasks only. Conversations have decreased to quite an extent. This will no doubt hurt a company’s overall culture and growth, while also hampering an individual’s mental state as it does not allow them to take frequent breaks as before.
To curb this, managers can organize virtual coffee breaks with their teams. They can ask their team members to block their calendars for half an hour every other day (depending on what works for the team) to facilitate employee bonding and also to avoid work-from-home burnout. These video calls can be chosen to be with the entire team and one-on-one too when required.
- Anonymous notes
Managers can work with HRs to utilize employee engagement platforms that help create a channel for employees to communicate their problems and concerns to their managers directly. They must encourage their team members to send in their feedback regularly. This not only helps solve the problem in question but also improves the company culture.
CultureMonkey’s anonymous feedback and surveys help companies understand their employee concerns. Once an employee sends in their issues, those are then taken up by the concerned team managers and converted into actionable tasks and resolved.
- Virtual kudos ritual
Recognizing and acknowledging team members’ performance is one of the cores of good management skills. If there’s one thing that employees look for in any leader or manager, is that their talent and hard work are recognized. According to a survey by Gallup, almost 65% of employees did not receive any recognition of their good work.
Most managers overlook the importance of appreciating their team members verbally or publicly. The truth is, employees derive their motivation mainly from direct appreciation from their managers than other perks. Lack of appreciation often leads to demotivation and ultimately unhappiness in an employee.
Ritualizing the appreciation culture in a team is key to a happy and motivated employee. Managers must make it a habit to appreciate their team members’ efforts regularly, if not daily. S/he must instill a culture of appreciation in the entire team where everyone is encouraged to appreciate other members. A Slack channel to show one’s appreciation is a good idea. Managers can also organize virtual recognition awards on a weekday to show their appreciation.
As remote working continues, managers need to pick the tips and tricks to evolve in this period of eCulture. As they grow in their role, managers must look for more ways to show their concern and appreciation for their teammates, thereby contributing a positive work culture.