People & Leadership

Empowering managers to support remote employees: 6 ways HR and People teams can help

With remote working set to remain popular in 2021, we look at how HR teams can empower managers to support remote employees.

If we didn’t already know remote work was going to be part of the future of work before the pandemic, we certainly do now.

The number of permanently remote-based employees worldwide are set to double in 2021, driven by employees enjoying a better work-life balance and experiencing increased productivity.

While remote working can bring so many benefits to employees, it doesn’t come without its challenges – particularly for those working in HR.

It’s no coincidence that HR and People teams had to deal with an increased workload during 2020, with new concerns around isolation, lack of communication and general uncertainty coming to the fore.

In fact, HR’s workload has grown exponentially as a result of the pandemic.

According to our research report, HR in the moment: The changing expectations and perceptions of HR, 60% of HR leaders say they’ve experienced an increase in both strategic and admin tasks.

However, if remote working is to continue growing, the responsibility of managing and supporting remote workers shouldn’t solely fall on HR’s shoulders – it should be the responsibility of managers, too.

Managers need to be skilled up and able to bolster and guide their employees and continue to implement the People strategy already put in place by HR.

Here’s six ways HR can empower managers to do just that, in 2021 and beyond:

1. Provide clear expectations

2. Set a good example

3. Develop a clear onboarding process for new managers

4. Run leadership training programmes

5. Encourage an agile mindset

6. Utilise the right technology

It’s the HR team’s role to both establish what ‘good’ looks like for your organisation in terms of managing remote employees and communicating these expectations to managers.

Consider your business’s strategic goals and values – plus any specific needs employees might have – and use them to develop a list of ideal leadership qualities and behaviours to share with managers.

It’s also important to explain the ‘why’ behind your expectations of managers and how adopting these behaviours will directly contribute to the organisation’s success.

“Remote work is the future of work,” – Alexis Ohanian, internet entrepreneur and former co-owner of Reddit

Before asking if your employees are supported by their managers, have you asked your managers if they feel fully supported by the organisation?

One of the best ways to encourage managers to effectively support their remote teams is to make sure they’re being properly supported themselves.

HR and People teams can set a great example by checking in with managers regularly, offering opportunities for them to communicate any concerns they may have and making sure access to any information they need is readily available.

Moving into a management role can be a tricky transition at the best of times.

But in the current world of work, people are having to learn new leadership skills all tailored to remote workers and in record speed in order to meet ever-shifting expectations.

This has made the role of onboarding vital.

If managers are to support remote employees, they must learn these skills during the onboarding process.

As an HR leader, you must make it clear what the responsibilities of new managers are and what best practice looks like, while also preparing them for any challenges they may face.

Offering this support from the very start of their management career will help give managers the confidence they need to lead remote teams successfully.

It’s not just new managers who will need guidance.

Even the most seasoned managers will probably have limited experience managing a remote workforce, which is why it’s important HR and People teams provide ongoing training.

This could take the form of company-wide training, tailored one-on-one coaching or special sessions focused on specific obstacles (or a combination of all three).

It’s also a good idea to host informal drop-in clinics.

To reduce some of the workload on the HR team, you may even like to invite teams to provide peer-to-peer training – particularly if there’s one team that’s managed the transition to remote working seamlessly or overcome some notable challenges.

Now, managers will be better prepared than ever to manage uncertainty again in the future.

That’s why it’s important for HR to empower managers to lead with an agile mindset, meaning they and their team can work flexibly in order to respond to changing circumstances.

Having an agile mindset can also help to strengthen communication, encourage collaboration and boost employee engagement – all of which are essential to successful remote working.

Getting the right technology isn’t just a nice-to-have – it can revolutionise the way your remote teams work.

Having the right tech in place, and training managers to use it effectively, is vital to making sure remote employees can stay connected.

It will also enable them to complete essential administrative tasks autonomously, such as, updating personal information and requesting time off.

By giving managers the power to approve holiday requests and absences, it takes the pressure off of HR and frees up time so the team can focus on more strategic tasks.

With remote working here to stay in one form or another, a purpose-built HR system will be essential for businesses to maintain unity with staff.

It’s also a valuable tool for another HR priority – measuring employee productivity and wellbeing.

Empowering managers to drive the People strategy forward

Managers really can make or break an organisation. After all, they say the biggest reason an employee leaves a job is because of their manager.

Now with remote working on the increase, HR can use this as an opportunity to redefine expectations of managers who manage employees both in an office environment and remotely.

Ultimately, managing remote employees might be new to some managers but the fundamentals of a good manager remain.

And by providing managers with the right tools they need to succeed, it means your HR team can focus on what’s important – looking after the People strategy.

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