Are Frontline Managers Ready for the New Normal?

Are Frontline Managers Ready for the New Normal

Most of us have been adjusting to the “Stay At Home” guidelines and doing our best to deal with the realities of Zoom calls and Slack channels as part of WFH (Working From Home). As we settle into this new normal, it’s time for frontline managers to revisit the old rules of people management and think of new ways to keep their teams healthy, engaged and productive. 

The “Future of Work” MasterMind Roundtable earlier this month focused on the long-term elements of the new normal, and what frontline managers need to be successful. "Managers and first-line supervisors have been taught to keep work and personal lives separate. With the global WFH experiment, they are seeing their employees' personal challenges more than ever, and are often unsure about their role," commented Joe Bosch, long-time HR executive and human capital management expert.

During this crisis, managers aren’t just dealing with a few employee issues or “HR hotspots” at a time. They’re facing an entire workforce dealing with potentially life-altering personal and family issues and worrying about their job security at the same time. The unavoidable daily conference calls and virtual meetings are also putting managers in the personal space and daily lives of employees in an unprecedented way. This highly personal connection to team members calls for new skills and a level of interpersonal openness that would have been unimaginable, and normally avoided, pre-Coronavirus. It’s important to understand the risks and success factors associated with this hyper-personal virtual workplace, as the new normal is likely to persist long after the crisis has passed. 

“This is a moment that can make or break a business; Managers who have the emotional intelligence to embrace and support both the personal and professional challenges employees are now facing, are more likely to come out of this crisis successfully.” said Rachele Downs, economic and workforce development specialist.  

“Interpersonal skills such as empathy and genuine curiosity, which were often not rewarded in the past, will be very valuable,”  added Joe Bosch. These are the new tools needed to really connect with and motivate team members at a time when employees have less patience than usual for “corporate speak” or business-as-usual platitudes. They need to feel they’re being heard and to know that the information they’re getting is timely, true and, most importantly, coming from someone who understands their current situation and stressors. 

Contrary to what some managers may think, inclusion will be a bigger part of every conversation now because everyone is feeling more isolated and less “included” than usual. In fact, the silver lining of this crisis may be that it leads to a turning point for both managers and employees in the decades-long struggle with how to be truly inclusive, said Sonya Sepahban, CEO of OurOffice, which is offering their virtual culture app for free during remainder of 2020 to help employers with the current crisis. 

Making a leap and opening up our minds to these new concepts will require a sincere, proactive effort and some courage from frontline managers. Their level of success in making this transition will likely be critical to their performance, as well as the survival of the organizations they work for.