Employees call for new leadership styles for hybrid working

20 December 2021 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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With more and more workers looking to maintain some of the positives they enjoyed from remote working during the lockdown months, hybrid working is bringing unique challenges for organisations. At present, less than half of employees feel their bosses are supporting their physical and mental wellbeing, while two-thirds feel they are not empowered to make their own decisions – as micro-managing leaders slip back into their pre-pandemic habits.

At the start of the pandemic, many managers feared a fall in productivity, as they would be unable to impose themselves on staff as closely during the lockdown months as they might have in the office. This swiftly proved not to be the case, however, and many workers actually improved their productivity thanks to improved work-life balances, and healthier working routines.

As a result, flexible working now contributes just under £40 billion to the UK economy – suggesting firms would do well to support some level of home working even after lockdown measures subside. In spite of this, though, many staff still feel unsupported when it comes to working from home, or that their management teams simply do not trust them to make decisions.

During the COVID-19 crisis, how well have organizations been adapting in the following areas

A survey of 1,380 respondents from 548 organisations undertaken by Capgemini has exemplified these feelings. While workers put a renewed emphasis on leadership attributes to support hybrid working, they felt little was currently being done to empower teams to lead effectively – and worse, many employers were out of touch with these fears. A majority of 69% of leaders told Capgemini they believed that their organisations had managed the transition to remote and hybrid working smoothly. In stark contrast though, just 49% of employees agreed.

Illustrating why this was, a minority of 37% of employees in non-supervisory roles said their organisations had actively empowered teams to make their own decisions; and only 47% felt included and heard by their organisations through the course of the pandemic. Arguably most worryingly, despite many firms publicly stating support for workforce wellness during the pandemic, only 49% of employees felt their organisations were able to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing. Meanwhile, a large majority of managers felt that they had performed well on all three counts.

Claudia Crummenerl, Global Practice Lead and Managing Director, Workforce and Organisation at Capgemini Invent explained, “Our report shows a clear disconnect between the views of upper management and employees across many organizations. While technology has facilitated the rapid adoption of hybrid working, management and leadership practices have in many cases not kept pace.”

Employee perspective on current and required proficiency levels of leaders

At the same time, Capgemini asked staff which areas they felt managers could improve on, to meet the demands of a hybrid working world. Employees in non-supervisory roles highlighted being obstructive to change as a key weakness of their bosses at present – with only 46% noting their leaders were proficient in being open to new ideas. Following this, 83% suggested this was an area leaders should develop.

Slightly more employees said their managers needed to develop a culture of trust in the firm, with 84% noting leaders could do more to empower employees. Meanwhile, 50% of staff felt their bosses were not presently proficient at this.

To that end, Crummenerl added, “It’s clear that there is a need to rejuvenate the concept of leadership for the hybrid workplace of the future. Organisations need to empower leaders to be empathetic, authentic, and credible in their approach, and invest in building the necessary leadership development infrastructure, as well as the necessary enabling conditions such as steering processes, management practices and policies to support required leadership behaviors, to achieve this.”