Managers earlier were people managers only. They used to be selected and promoted based on their ability to manage a large set of groups. They used to be evaluated based on their ability to handle the expectations of their team. And drive them towards a common goal. The employees were also expected to drive a particular set of tasks that the manager was overlooking. But not anymore. With COVID-19 everything has changed. So is the work culture. We are almost a year and a half into the pandemic at the time of writing this article. And now it is more clear than ever that the employees would prefer a hybrid mode of working. With that said, I am going to share my perspective. On what does it mean to be a manager in the 21st century.
Many employees are going to choose to work remotely or in a hybrid model in the near future. For midsized companies, a Gartner report shows astounding findings. It shows that 46% of the workforce is expected to work in the hybrid model in the near future. The recent studies show that from the past 5 years HR teams had started a different trend. They started hiring people as managers who are great coaches.
No one needs a manager who can simply help the team drive towards a common goal and execute some tasks. The managers are expected to be great influencers who can mentor and coach people. It was wrongly assumed for sure. That coaching people or a team for that matter is going to be the primary function of the managers. Since the pandemic, there is more evidence. That there are more to the role than just what managers used to do earlier.
What does it mean to be a manager now in the 21st century with the pandemic?
Based on my little experience I say this. That the best manager is the one who can do the below four points with ease. And they are empathetic at the same time. This is what will answer the fundamental question of what does it mean to be a manager in 21st Century.
- Manage employee’s changing expectations
- Accelerate use of technology to manage employees
- Normalize remote work
- Be empathetic than a taskmaster
Manage Employee’s changing expectations
With a one-half year into the pandemic, the relation between a manager and employee is not limited. It is not limited to just work anymore. It is more than work. As companies started offering support for employees with their personal life as well the relationship became more and more personal. When managerial tasks are replaced by technology then the managers needed to connect with their employees emotionally to evaluate them. When interactions became virtual the managers no longer have the ability to see what an employee is doing. And they had to rely on emotional or personal connections with the employee.
These trends have culminated in the era of management. Where it was less important to see what the employees were doing. But more important to understand how the employees feel.
Accelerate the use of technology to manage the employees
At the extreme level of AI-driven solutions, the managers can be replaced by technology. In which the companies started investing since pandemic. Ever since the pandemic, companies started investing in AI-driven software, automated task solutions, auditing tools etc. Essentially, while companies have been focused on how technology can automate employee tasks. Whereas it can just as effectively replace the tasks of managers. A report shows that by 2024, the new technologies have the ability to replace as much as 69% of the tasks that managers do currently. Such as assigning work and nudging productivity.
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Normalize remote work
With the new era of technologies, it is clear. That the managers and their employees are not going to be working on the same thing. Or at the same time. Either the employee or the manager is going to be working remotely one way or another. In that setting of work, the manager does not have visibility over their employees. In terms of what the employee is doing and how. It is going to be more important now for the managers to understand that, then how should not matter. As long as it is ethical and within the guidelines of the organization. They will have less visibility into the realities of their employees day to day work. And they need to begin focusing on their outputs. And less on the processes used to produce those outputs.
Be Empathetic than a taskmaster
I read somewhere as a quote by some senior HR manager that, Culture eats empathy for breakfast. Breakfast being the important meal of the day for culture empathy is the most important. But empathy just does not happen overnight. The managers and employees need to trust each other to have empathy for each other. It is in fact a lot to ask from any individual to ask questions that produce vulnerable answers. And even more when we ask them to do this without compromising trust.
Managers now need to diagnose the root cause of an employees behavior without judging the employee. Or the situation the employee is in for that matter. They need to have more social emotional intelligence to imagine others feelings. Empathy is not easy. It never was. It never will be. But it is worth it. It is more important for the managers in 21st century to show empathy than it was before the pandemic.
With that, I rest my case on what does it mean to be a manager in 21st Century. What would your take be? Let me know in the comments section below and if you disagree with any of the points that I mentioned then please feel free to let me know. I would be happy to include any points that you think might have been missed from the article which should have been included as per your thoughts.
I am a 31-year-old dude from a lower-middle-class family hailing from a small village Narasinghpur in Cuttack, Odisha, INDIA. I have a post-graduate degree in M.Tech from BITS Pilani. I started blogging back in June 2014. You can check out my journey and all that I have learnt all these years on my website.