How To Set Managers Up for Success in a Hybrid Workforce 


The world of work looks much different than it did a year ago, and the manager’s role has evolved to meet the needs of the hybrid workforce. Managers today need a new toolkit to support the hybrid workforce. In this article, Gretchen Alarcon, vice president and general manager of HR service delivery, ServiceNow, discusses how this toolkit looks like. 

The world of work looks vastly different than it did one year ago. Where we work and how we work have been decoupled, and it’s clear that the future is hybrid. Our 2021 Employee Experience Imperative ReportOpens a new window found that 62% of employees (and 72% of desk workers) believe COVID-19 will have a significant impact on their work experience not only now but for years to come.

Leaders must now shift their focus from supporting a temporary virtual workforce to putting the systems and technologies in place to keep employees connected, engaged, and supported from anywhere.

Managers and team leaders are on the frontlines of these shifts. Throughout the pandemic, they have had to find new ways to inspire and connect with their teams. At the same time, they are also dealing with increased workloads, uncertainty about the future, and the challenges of work-life balance.

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To support employees in this past year of work transformation, managers have evolved from simply driving deadlines and productivity to focusing on the end-to-end employee experience, including mental health and wellbeing. As the role of the manager evolves and becomes more complex, they need tools and technology to support their teams, wherever they choose to work.

This demands a new manager toolkit, drawing on learnings from the last year to support the workforce model of the future.

The 2021 Manager Toolkit

To be successful in our new future of hybrid work, managers and team leaders need the right tools to address employees’ needs, wellbeing, and professional growth. The manager toolkit of 2021 includes three essential elements: 

  • Digital tools to facilitate continuous learning and development

While we’ve learned over the last year that most employees don’t all need to be in the same place to be productive, enabling continuous learning and development across a distributed workforce poses a bigger challenge. Companies must ensure employees have the digital tools in place for ongoing learning and development and that remote employees are just as engaged and visible as their in-person counterparts during these sessions.

Supporting employees with resources to be able to upskill when relevant is also essential. Digital workflows can augment the manager’s role by providing learning materials to an employee in their normal flow of work and making these resources available on-demand, so the learning experience is more flexible. This way, training becomes an organic part of their day-to-day.

And instead of guessing what employees need or want to learn, AI tools can help predict and surface relevant materials in real-time. For example, they can identify when an employee needs help based on where they’re searching for materials, patterns in their working hours, or when a task is taking longer than usual. Providing these in-moment opportunities then allows employees to more closely connect learning to their specific role and day-to-day success.

  • Low code tools to create customized growth plans

Every employee is different and requires a unique growth plan that can be updated throughout their career. Applications that help managers create customized role-based plans with little to no programming experience are becoming more commonplace. Leveraging easily customizable tools, managers can guide each person with tasks and actions to move through different career moments.

With a customizable role-based plan, it’s clear to both employees and managers exactly what they need to be successful in their role. These plans can also organize activities and tasks to help them through big moments like onboarding, a promotion, or a transfer.

Too often, growth plans are completed within a Word document that a manager formats and fills out from scratch. With digital tools, managers can replace inconvenient documents with more efficient and effective workflows that track progress in real-time and pull from best practices.

  • A schedule of consistent and clear feedback

It’s vital to establish a cadence of regular feedback within a hybrid workforce, where there may be fewer organic run-ins and touchpoints between managers and their reports. If employees have a clear understanding of expectations and how they are tracking against goals, they can continue to improve performance and adjust course, rather than waiting for annual performance reviews.

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Without regular in-person interactions in an office, managers need to be more deliberate about setting a schedule to deliver and receive feedback from their teams. Scheduling times to give and receive feedback and regularly tracking progress in an employees’ career plan can help ensure both the manager and employee are tracking towards the same goals.

The agile, distributed “anywhere, anytime” workplace will continue to transform how companies operate. And while managers will always need to find ways to connect directly with employees and actively listen to their needs, modern tools can help along the way. Companies must make sure managers have the tools they need to create great experiences in this new era of work