Even though HR still struggles to dispel its decades-long stereotype as a group of technically incompetent, soft-spoken, corporate enforcers (think of Toby from The Office), in recent years savvy, effective, data-driven HR teams have been actively reimagining everything from performance management to corporate culture. In 2020, COVID-19 and societal unrest made the HR function even more mission-critical and underscored the importance of human intellect in people management.
Managing remote employees is hardly a new concept. In fact, the shift to working from home was well underway - and trending upward - long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. Between 2005 and 2018, the number of "regular work-from-home" employees increased by a whopping 173 percent,1 with 15 percent of "wage and salary workers" working exclusively from home during 2017 - 2018.2 When the pandemic struck, many businesses that were able to have their employees work from home did so, and by June 2020 "42 percent of the U.S. labor force . . . [was] working from home full time."
A human resources department isn't just a team of experts who know how to manage people: it's a team of experts who know how to manage the people in their particular company. Although every successful HR team is unique, most HR folks use similar tried-and-true strategies for keeping things running smoothly. For example, many check in with employees regularly to discuss their goals and offer them development opportunities. Some gauge employee sentiment by observing behavior in the office, and some take managers out for coffee to discuss leadership or succession questions. Whatever strategies they employ, the HR activities that most successfully address problems share one common feature: interfacing with people.
All the knowledge, experience, and skill in the world won’t make someone a great leader unless people are confident that they know what they’re doing and that they can achieve results. For that faith and trust to exist, that person must have credibility, “the quality or power of inspiring belief.” Credibility isn’t an inherent quality but one that must be actively developed and regularly sustained. It’s difficult to earn and easy to lose. And as part of the foundation of effective communication, it’s one of the most valuable items in any leader’s box of management tools.
Everyone has to deal with various ups and downs in their work relationships. Sometimes the coworkers are great and the bosses are nightmares - or the other way around. When employees and managers work well together, though, those relationships can yield plenty of benefits for everyone involved (including the organization in general). For that reason, companies should prioritize building and nurturing healthy employee-manager relationships, starting with these three strategies.