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Line managers have played a pivotal role in supporting their teams and maintaining productivity over the pandemic. The extent to which they have implemented effective and open communication has consistently determined the success of teams acting on behalf of the public and their clients.

Frameworks that organise pay and roles throughout an organisation have often been a valuable reference for line managers to drive productivity remotely and coordinate their teams during this turbulent period. Here we outline how line managers collectively determine employee morale and can align each employee with the vision of the wider organisation.

Linking pay to performance conversations

The purpose of pay structures is far-reaching, covering organisational design, clarity around roles and employee engagement, but the benefits they bring for management is a particularly important outcome that the framework can offer.

When reviewing performance management systems with customers, line management is often cited as the critical factor in ensuring that the existing or new framework is a success. Managers are the key gateway between the system in theory and its implementation, determining whether it is consistently delivered across the organisation and particularly in relation to identifying objectives in relation to improvements. Justifying pay reviews is also crucial in maintaining momentum behind employee engagement, even in spite of incremental increases or pay freezes.

The art of persuasion

At the heart of effective line management is communication which has proved to be critical throughout the pandemic. The art of persuasion enables line managers to inspire their teams. This soft skill is vital for teams to excel, bolstering morale across organisations when a strong sense of trust is fostered within teams. Managers must demonstrate that they are committed to the welfare of the individuals they manage by making fair, rational and logical decisions. Those in managerial positions must be equipped to make their case for key decisions affecting their employees, something that pay structures can provide.

A framework to guide managers

Pay structures can bolster line managers’ capabilities, equipping management with a framework upon which to base consistent decisions and support difficult conversations they might need to have in the course of performance management. Pay structures provide an objective framework that justifies their decisions and backs up the role of management in delivering consistent, rational assessments that are placed into the context of the wider organisation. This reference point ensures that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and contributes to employees feeling safe in the knowledge that they are being treated equally.

The importance of delivery

However, whilst the framework can provide objective reasons for pay review decisions and performance management objectives, communicating this effectively remains something that takes time to build and practice for some people. Whilst many of the most productive staff go on to be successful managers, some do not make the seamless switch from being a star individual contributor to a team leader.

What makes a good manager?

With management being ever-stretched even before the pandemic and management courses running parallel and often additionally to the usual day jobs required in each role, those who are the most productive workers may not automatically make the most effective managers. Whilst that sounds logical, many managers are a product of progression, being awarded promotions into positions of leadership based on the hierarchical system of working their way up the ladder.

A change in perspective

This leads to the question of whether delivery and line management is a conducive model – because if managerial promotions based on merit fail, then the company loses both their best contributor and a new manager. According to the Harvard Business Review, individuals need to expand their capabilities to go from individual skills to those focused on ‘others’, which requires individuals to adapt to a whole new way of working.

Leadership skills

Developing leadership-orientated skills is something that HR teams focus on to ensure that managers go from focusing on their own development to taking pride in helping others learn. Giving actionable feedback again comes back to communication skills and broadening the lens from, ‘what do I have to deliver?’ to ‘how can we collectively deliver as a team?’ This change in perspective is a long-term change as each leader learns to present their ideas in an interesting and engaging manner to colleagues to effect change collectively.

Wellbeing responsibility

In addition to being focused on employee development, there is a renewed focus on the role of an employer in their employees’ mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Whilst line managers are responsible for each employee realising their role in delivering the wider vision of the organisation, employees also raise any issues with their wider welfare directly with their line manager in the first instance. They must feel comfortable in doing so and line managers must feel equipped to respond appropriately. During the pandemic, mental health charity Mind developed a toolkit to support line managers. Employee Assistance Programmes are also consistently offered by employers to provide broader wellbeing support and give line managers the resources to support their teams.

How can HR nurture future managers?

Support future line managers

Organisations need to identify the right talent to lead from the moment they join. Being an effective leader takes time and effort. Once in a managerial role, organisations tend to want to see immediate results. However, individuals are facing new and multiple responsibilities, where they cannot rely on diligence to engage and motivate the wider team. Leadership development programmes should be accessible for all to secure a future pipeline of effective managers and not just offered to those already in these positions of responsibility.

Actively listening to employees

We are seeing more creative approaches to support current leaders in engaging their teams. Increasingly, HR teams are pursuing entry interviews, not just exit interviews, to ascertain what the employee has valued about the onboarding experience and where improvements can be made. This not only helps to lower employee turnover levels – these insights can support managers’ understanding of their teams and what drives the individuals they are managing from the outset, not just during defined management conversations around performance and objectives. Employee opinion surveys are also becoming an increasingly used point of reference to inform management practises. These surveys enable organisations to quickly understand their employees’ reactions to the existing culture and new initiatives, whilst identifying areas for improvement.

Engage with employees as individuals

Encouraging managers to take the time to get to know the people in their team as individuals ensures that greater trust and clarity around roles can be encouraged from the outset. This promotes a rounded employee experience and lays the foundations for more effective performance management across organisations.

Get in touch

As companies define their working arrangements post-pandemic and the extent to which they implement hybrid working, line managers will have an increasingly critical role in leading their teams through the next phase of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

We’d love to discuss ways in which you can equip managers with the knowledge, tools and training to maximise the effectiveness of their teams – call us today.


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