When recruiting or training anyone who will be responsible for managing others, there are certain skills that should be at the top of your list for ensuring the person is effective in managing, coaching, and motivating others. Some of these skills are “evergreen,” while others emerged during the pandemic as organizations and their managers learned new ways of interacting with, coaching, and motivating a remote workforce.
The State of L&D in 2022
Research from TalentLMS and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on the state of learning and development (L&D) in 2022 revealed that:
- Two-thirds of HR managers would invest in mental health and well-being training if they had a higher L&D budget available to them.
- 40% of HR managers are investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training.
- Over 8 in 10 employees say it is important to get training on soft skills (82%) and self-management skills (81%).
- 77% of HR managers are likely to focus on life skills training within the next 12 months.
- 59% of companies will provide their employees with upskilling (59%) and reskilling (55%) in 2022.
- More than 1 in 2 companies are facing a skills gap, and half of them are addressing it by training existing employees.
To see how companies are navigating this rapidly changing work landscape, we reached out to business leaders to ask them what they perceived as the must-have management skills for an increasingly remote or hybrid work environment.
The skill that tops the list: communication.
Communication is key, says Sarah Jameson, marketing director of Green Building Elements. Communication, of course, has always been an important element of any manager’s job. In the COVID era, though, it has reached heightened importance. After all, communicating with people who are remote and, from a team perspective, dispersed is more challenging than communicating with teams who are located in the same place.
“Checking in on teams and individuals, setting weekly meetings, and having a unified medium to be able to communicate daily is paramount to keep remote teams productive on a daily basis,” Jameson says.
Cassie Whitlock, director of HR at BambooHR, agrees. “Open and consistent communication is crucial, especially in a remote or hybrid workforce,” she asserts. “Managers need to actively listen to their teams and ask questions to understand what is working and what needs to be improved.”
Managers and supervisors also need training and education to ensure they understand the specific communication skills that are most important in today’s highly remote and hybrid environment.
“It is fundamental to teach managers the significance of foresight, the ability to mitigate inefficiencies, and to eliminate barriers that prevent good communication,” Jameson says. “This entails forming the habit of monitoring employees’ progress in meeting their goals, not their daily activity. The big difference is being able to figure out the right time to step in and acknowledge the different challenges workers face when they work from home and being able to find proactive solutions to improve their situations.”
Closely related to communication skills are the relationship skills required to successfully motivate today’s employees.
Based on 10X Leadership Lab’s partner and leadership coach Ashley Andersen’s experience coaching leaders, soft skills are critical for effective management. Soft skills, she says, “are really human behavior and relationship skills.” These include things like “understanding how humans react to uncertainty and being able to communicate to those fears and feelings, recognizing the impact that you have on the lives of others and acting in ways that demonstrate responsibility for that impact, and knowing your own triggers and limits and setting boundaries to help you maintain your integrity in difficult situations.”
The best way to build these skills, Andersen adds, is “stakeholder centered coaching.” This type of coaching gives leaders an opportunity “to not just reflect on their strengths and opportunities, but to hear form others who they interact with and impact regularly about their experience of the leader.”
Too often, leaders may feel they’re doing well, but others may perceive shortcomings and opportunities for improvement, according to Andersen. Gaining feedback on how they come across to others is important for continuous improvement.
Intercultural sensitivity is also increasingly important for today’s managers. “As workplaces continue to diversity, it’s important for managers to become sensitive to other cultures outside of their own,” Whitlock advises. “When employees feel recognized, valued and appreciated, they’ll be more motivated to produce great results.”
In an era of rapid change and increasing global competition for products and services of all kinds, continuous learning and professional development are critical for today’s managers.
Training Today’s Managers
As a large global employer with more than 45,000 employees, Liberty Mutual has “taken a holistic approach to continuous learning across the company, providing employees with a broad range of resources to meet them where they are and to empower employees to acquire the skills they need,” Kimberly Newkirk, VP and Chief Talent and Learning Officer for the company, says. “Managers are crucial for creating an environment where everyone feels they belong and can bring their whole selves to work, which is why we offer a variety of tools for them to grow their leadership skills.”
These tools include “an 8-week intensive leadership program, custom developmental feedback assessments, coaching engagements and more,” Newkirk notes. Liberty Mutual is “also focused on managers as critical enablers of our enterprise DEI strategy by setting clear expectations for managers on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as true engagement of the workforce.” Its “Inclusive Leadership Toolkit” provides actions in four levels of DEI change: personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural.
Fortunately, in this continually changing environment, managers have access to a wide range of resources—many available at no, or low, cost at the touch of their fingertips.
Additional Recommended Resources and Support
Jameson points to some podcasts she has found helpful for providing perspective and insights on the challenges and benefits of managing remote workers; Below The Line, The Remote Show, and Rework are just a few of the many available online.
“It takes effort and a commitment to excellence for people to continually learn and grow, especially now in a virtual/remote environment,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing and consulting firm Mavens & Moguls. “I do not think there is one silver bullet to keep your skills sharp and fresh, I recommend using a combination of reading and learning online and off, attending conferences and talks, networking, newsletters from influencers, TED talks, podcasts, finding mentors and listening to all feedback good and bad.”
It’s also important to continually seek feedback and to be continually focused on lifelong learning.
“By asking for and providing regular feedback, encouraging ideas from all parts of the organization, connecting regularly one-on-one via video with each team member, and hosting team meetings where everyone contributes and their perspectives are heard, managers can role model inclusive leader practices,” Newkirk says.
To remain relevant, Arnof-Fenn adds, it’s important for today’s professionals to prioritize professional development and stay on top of new trends and technologies.
That requires a multipronged approach to continuous learning and development—and being proactive in seeking ongoing feedback from multiple sources.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.