Leadership, Organisational Change

Bridges to the Future: People (3)

By Mark Withers


12 August 2020

This third article on People ‘Bridges to the Future’ considers two key enablers that will help us create organisations where people flourish and their potential is unlocked. 

This third article on People ‘Bridges to the Future’ considers two key enablers that will help us create organisations where people flourish and their potential is unlocked. 

Enabler 1: Effective People Managers 

People managers play a crucial role in delivering the people strategy and in creating the people experience. They can be powerful influencers for good … and awful … and all points in between. The old adage that people leave their managers and not organisations is generally true. People managers who say they have no time to manage people are simply taking the salary, but not the accountability. 
The people manager part of our bridge to the future must be very strong. People managers not only affect the performance of individuals. They impact the effectiveness of teams and the way their part of the organisation works with other parts. They are strong shapers of culture and they cast a long shadow into the crevices of the organisation. 
So here are a few things to consider if we are serious about equipping our people managers:

  1. Put a value on people managementMake great people managers your heroes. Recognise them. Shout them out. Notice what they do and the impact they have. 
  2. Invest in themBe clear about what you expect from your people managers and equip them with the skills to do their job well. These skills are not learnt through osmosis. They are learnt through training, coaching, role modelling and practice. If you want to attract and retain talent, give your people managers the tools to create a powerful employee experience. 
  3. Give them time to do their job.People management cannot be done well in the margins of the day. If you expect people to manage others give them time to coach, communicate, coordinate work … and inspire, motivate, and empower. People management is the day job!  

Enabler 2: Technology

HR teams have worked tirelessly during lockdown to create instant virtual workforces, often moving thousands of people to virtual working within days. 

Recent research by Sage points to a huge underinvestment in people-related technology. Adoption rates are as low as 43% for cloud, 36% for mobile and a staggering 24% for self-service and 11% for use of Virtual Reality. These are dreadful statistics. 

We want to empower people managers, but we don’t invest in the technology and tools. We want a flexible and agile workforce but we don’t invest in technology on the move. We want decisions to be based on data and insights, but don’t make this information accessible. We want our people to own their learning and development, but we don’t help them learn when it suits them. 

This current disruption has shown us just how dependent we have become on technology and that’s only going to accelerate. We are already in a world where our personal technology is generally better than the technology we have at work. This digital gap has to close. 

Let me offer a couple more reasons why investing in people technology falls into the ‘no brainer’ category:

First, as consumers we expect it. Think about what we now expect when we do business with organisations online – financial, retail for example. It’s a high bar and our expectations are increasing all the time. Why wouldn’t we expect the same in using technology inside our organisations? 

Second, is Gen Z. If we thought millennials were challenging, wait until Gen Z hit the workforce en masse. I have a Gen Z-er at home. These kids are truly digital natives. They think email sucks. They are digital consumers. They will challenge fundamentally how we think about work and how we deploy technology. Big time. A tsunami of expectation is heading our way. 

The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated technology trends already in play. The question we now have to challenge ourselves with is ‘why wouldn’t we invest in people related technology’?  

Our first two articles set out the findings of research conducted by Sage (which were discussed in a Personnel Today webinar co-presented by Mark) and explored how organisations are refocusing on people and discussed the new skillsets required in people functions. (If you haven’t already, you can read other articles in this series here).

In considering the two enablers discussed in this article:

  • How would you rate on a scale of 1-10 the capabilities of people managers in your organisation? 
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of people technologies in your organisation? 
  • What needs to happen to raise the effectiveness of people managers? 
  • What needs to happen to improve the deployment of people technology? 
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