What Does It Mean to Be a Manager Today?

hbr.org
6 min read
fairly difficult
Managers need a new set of skills to succeed in a world of remote work, automation, and shifting employee expectations.
Managers used to be selected and promoted largely based on their ability to manage and evaluate the performance of employees who could carry out a particular set of tasks. But three disruptive, transformative trends are challenging traditional definitions of the manager role: Normalization of remote work, automation, and changing employee expectations. These three trends have culminated in a new era of management where it's less important to see what employees are doing and more important to understand how they feel. To be successful in this new environment, managers must lead with empathy. This will require organizations and their HR functions to develop their managers' skills, awaken their mindsets to manage in new ways, and create the capacity across the organization to enable this shift. The authors present a holistic strategy that invests in all three of those strategies.

A year into the pandemic, the implications of how Covid-19 has changed how people will work from now on are becoming clear. Many employees will be working in a hybrid world with more choices about where, when, and how much they work. For midsize companies specifically, Gartner analysis shows that 46% of the workforce is projected to be working hybrid in the near future.

To better understand the impact of Covid-19 on the future of work, we surveyed 3,049 knowledge workers and their managers across onsite, remote, and hybrid work contexts, as well as 75 HR leaders, including 20 leaders from midsize companies. Except where indicated, our findings come from these 2021 surveys.

Managers used to be selected and promoted largely based on their ability to manage and evaluate the performance of employees who could carry out a particular set of tasks. Within the last five years, HR executives started to hire and develop managers who were poised to be great coaches and teachers. But the assumption that coaching should be the primary function of management has been tested since the pandemic began.…
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