New managerial skills are now essential for managers to cope with the changes taking place in the world of work. And managerial communication can be seen as paramount.
The pandemic has turned companies upside down, so much so that questions are now being asked about the role of managers in the new hybrid office scenarios. The transformation of companies inevitably entails the transformation of managerial functioning. This is reflected in the acquisition by managers of new managerial skills, which no longer have anything to do with simple supervision and doling out instructions. If managers are able to transform themselves to this new environment, they can become a very powerful lever when it comes to the engagement of their teams.
- 1. Are managers on the way out?
- 2. A new way of communicating imposed by the pandemic
- 3. What is managerial communication?
- 4. The importance of interpersonal skills in management
- 5. Managers still have a key role
- 6. New managerial skills for new missions
- 7. The manager: now more than ever a key resource for employee commitment
1. Are managers on the way out?
The latest “Trends 2022” report by the technology research and consulting company Gartner (1) puts the spotlight on the organisation of the workplace, and on the role of managers in particular. According to Gartner, by 2024, one third of teams will be able to work effectively without the presence of a manager. This is because companies have been forced to suddenly switch to a hybrid way of working, combined with the fact that many of them have already adopted the principles of “agile” organisation. The number of managers would therefore be drastically reduced within two years.
“By 2024, 30% of corporate teams will be without a boss due to the self-directed and hybrid nature of work.”
Gartner Trends 2022
Is this the beginning of the end for the role of management at companies? Or are we facing a transformation of the traditional role of the manager as we have always understood it? If so, we can ask ourselves what managerial skills are needed in the new hybrid environment. So let’s take a closer look.
2. A new way of communicating imposed by the pandemic
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of organisations, including the way they interact with their staff. It has also accelerated the need to rethink the way organisations interact with all their employees, including those in the field who are not equipped with computers.
The adoption of new digital tools (often in a hurry) has enabled many organisations to reach their employees directly, relegating managers from primary sources of information to very secondary channels.
During this upheaval, managers were busy learning how to manage their teams remotely, and how to use new digital tools. Unfortunately, some did not manage to adapt quickly, which further weakened their role as managers, especially in managerial communication.
3. What is managerial communication?
A function in its own right at most companies, managerial communication consists of providing managers with the tools to communicate effectively with their teams. A discipline at the crossroads of management and communication, it is a real lever for corporate culture. It is a very powerful channel in the context of a new strategic direction, but also during a major change, such as an IPO or a relocation. Managers, by relying on their proximity to their teams, can directly exchange with them, while also gathering their feedback.
Before the pandemic, management communication was considered the most effective way to engage and mobilise employees. Indeed, the involvement of managers was essential to embody a new strategy and to give it meaning, thus engaging all teams.
“Today’s manager, especially the proximity manager in charge of a team, is first and foremost a facilitator, the bearer of the company’s values. Considered by the top management as a natural relay of communication within the company, he is, in fact, the company’s first communicator.”
Maurice Imbert, Managerial Communications, Ed.Dunod.
4. The weight of interpersonal skills in management
The essence of managerial communication lies in the quality of the exchange and dialogue with the teams. Only companies that build a real culture of discussion and sharing will develop managerial communication skills among their executives.
In concrete terms, managers must now have relationship development skills. This, in particular, requires proximity to the teams.
This proximity was lost during the pandemic: physical proximity suddenly disappeared, and new technologies were introduced into the managerial ecosystem. Paradoxically, the arrival of new technologies (such as Teams, Zoom, and many others) intensified the exchange of information. Deprived of the physical proximity to their teams, and drowning in information and new working methods, many managers felt lost.
Those who have understood that communication is part of their managerial duty have fared better. Soft skills have become essential: emotional intelligence and empathy to understand the needs of employees; ease of listening and dialogue, with the time management that this implies; leadership to keep teams together despite the physical distance; adaptability and cognitive flexibility to facilitate understanding of the environment in which teams evolve; and of course, the ability to communicate with teams. It’s not just about passing on information: it’s about dialogue, answering questions, and passing on feedback from employees to management.
“In the new management model, communication is at the heart of the management act. The relational dimension takes over from the technical or managerial dimension. Listening and dialogue are the “necessary fuels” for the success of the manager’s mission.”
Maurice Imbert, Managerial Communication, Ed. Dunod.
The role of the manager is therefore also changing, and the managerial skills required are increasingly focused on communication.
5. Managers still have a key role
According to Gallagher’s “State of the Sector 2022” report (2), for the first time, improving managers’ communication is placed in the top three priorities of the year by the companies surveyed. Moreover, most respondents (81%) reported a high expectation of managers as communicators. There is therefore still a broad consensus in organisations about the role of managers as communicators and influencers.
The conclusion is simple: while there has been an explosion in the use of digital tools, there is still a strong need for human interaction, especially in times of multiple changes and challenges.
This need is particularly strong among employees who do not have access to IT tools, such as operators on a production line, on the shop floor, on a construction site…
The Gallagher report also points out that there are regional variations in this area: “European organisations are less likely to treat managers as a primary communication channel, while those in North America see them more as the priority channel.”
Companies have no choice but to transform their managers and ensure that they can acquire the managerial skills needed in the new hybrid ecosystem. Therefore, they need to invest in collaborative technology solutions that make it easier for managers to speak to their teams.
6. New managerial skills for new missions
If managers play a central role in the sharing and exchange of information, what are internal communication professionals doing to foster the development of soft skills?
Unfortunately, and despite major changes in the work ecosystem, it seems that organisations still see managers as a top-down cascading mechanism, and not as a group of influencers who help shape a collective narrative.
Communication departments in companies must now design communication plans including managers: they must give them a clear role in the channel mix, support them with simple and structured tools, engage them with clear expectations as “communicating managers”.
Therefore, they need to transform their managers and ensure that they can acquire the necessary managerial skills in the new hybrid ecosystem. Managers need to be trained to acquire the soft skills necessary to engage in regular and effective dialogue and exchange with their teams.
Finally, they need to invest in technological solutions that make it easier for managers to speak to their teams from a distance.
7. The manager: now more than ever a key resource for employee engagement
So it is not the manager who will disappear from organisations; it is the traditional manager we were used to before the pandemic. If managers are to continue to have an influence on the commitment, productivity, engagement and performance of their teams, they need new managerial skills.
Communication is now THE essential managerial skill: it is certainly imposed by hybrid work scenarios, but not that alone. Employees have high expectations that their opinions will be taken into account. This is where the manager now has a real role to play: by engaging in dialogue with his or her teams, employee engagement will be all the stronger. A constructive dialogue, based on active listening, exchange and—what is often underestimated but is becoming increasingly important—encouraging feedback to top management.
(1) Technology research and consulting company that constantly audits and analyses the best solutions in the software industry https://www.gartner.fr/fr