Looming Crisis – the Role of the Manager

Managers face new and emerging expectations as focus shifts from employee task management and processes to workplace experience and wellbeing.

It is tough being a manager at the minute. The world at work is undergoing constant change. Digital disruption, remote work and workplace psychological responsibility are challenging previous strict hierarchy-based ways of management.

The time has come to turn squishy debate into concrete actions. The looming crisis does not dismiss traditional methods of evaluation of managers but calls to enhance the assessments by adding specific metrics linked directly to the context of the workforce. Incorporating a holistic approach to total worker health, wellbeing and performance starts to change the narrative. It demonstrates a new modern manager mindset by creating a network of support and connectedness in a technology driven, increasingly remote and complex working world.

The old-age role of managers has been to measure set KPI’s, production and outputs across the workforce and general maintenance of the status quo. With the world at work changing rapidly so too are the requirements of employees, hence managers need to be more insightful and develop new skills. They are under pressure to expand their knowledge base and advance their skillset to take on the challenges of the post pandemic world. As employee expectations shift, along with requirements of managers to meet them, the system we currently see in the workplace is out of balance.

A growing need for employees is to have purpose in both their lives and work. In striving for more meaningful lives our evidence shows individuals want to be mentally healthier, more resilient, further motivated, physically stronger, live longer and make a greater contribution to family friends and society. Lofty objectives but it reflects the change that is occurring and how the role of the manager to facilitate some (or all) of these objectives must change too. Employees now expect their managers to be part of the support system that helps to improve their life experience, not just their employee experience.

PwC and Gartner Surveys make it clear that the pandemic has changed things. It is now time for managers to focus on employees’ feelings and wellbeing. Managers must build connections across the workforce or within their teams. This means more than free muesli at a regular team breakfast. There must be a clear demonstration that managers understand the pressures and mental health issues that employees face. There needs to be a continuous display of employee support through the implementation of training and programs that focus on total worker health. The days of ineffective tick the box approaches to workplace wellbeing have long passed.

Yes, this will require executives to create the capacity across the organisation to enable this shift. There will be short term costs to set up a broader, more integrated approach to manage employees but the increase in engagement, retention and bottom-line ROI will help avoid the crisis that is sneaking up on all of us. It is time for change. The world has changed and so too has the workplace.


Harvard Business Review, March-April 2022

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