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Supporting Managers with EX Technology

Coaching, Community, and Communication Tools Help Alleviate Manager Stress

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The past few years have been turbulent ones for workers around the world, and with the current economic uncertainties more challenges will likely be faced. There has been a lot of discussion, rightly so, on trying to meet the varied needs and wants of employees, but maybe not as much focus on the managers that are tasked with making this happen.

Managers have been under a lot of pressure, dealing with a wide range of issues such as:

  • Difficulty recruiting – open jobs – more work for staff
  • Age-diverse employee population, with 5 generations in the workforce right now
  • High employee expectations
  • Change exhaustion
  • Managing hybrid work models

And this brief list is just a sampling. Employees are not only wanting their basic work needs, such as compensation and benefits, met, and met well, but many also are desiring more intangible factors, such as personal fulfillment. Managers are under a lot of pressure. It is a lot for any manager to handle without the appropriate support and tools.

Recent research from Qualtrics found 43% of managers and 41% of senior leaders feel more pressure to produce results than they did a year ago. Managers and senior leaders are also more likely to look for a new job in the next six months than individual contributors and C-suite leaders. Research from O.C. Tanner showed leaders are experiencing extreme stress and burnout, with leaders 42% more likely to say work is interfering with their ability to be happy.

There are many technologies in the EX ecosystem that can support managers. Three areas in particular — coaching, connection, and communication — help managers develop new skills and connect with others for support and advice.

Coaching & Training

Much of what has happened over the past couple of years on the managerial front has been unprecedented, and there was no rulebook or case study to learn from. This acute challenge has evened out but has also exposed a gap. Coaching and capability development is becoming a critical component of an employee’s experience in all levels of an organization. People want to be supported in building or deepening skill sets that they can use for personal and career development. Employers are starting the shift toward ongoing coaching and conversations to help identify and address potential skills gaps. For employees in contact centers, real time coaching is available via solutions such as those offered by Qualtrics, Cogito and Medallia. This in-the-moment advice helps alleviate some burden off contact center managers who historically provided feedback in a limited and labor-intensive manner.

Managers, particularly those on the front lines, have had to learn new technologies themselves during the pivot to digital. Additionally, there have been technologies rolled out, such as rewards and recognition programs or tools to support well-being that many managers do not understand the science behind or how to implement.

There are solutions being introduced on the market that focus a bit more on giving managers the coaching support they need in a fast and convenient manner. An example is the recently introduced Cultivate Intelligent Coaching, from Perceptyx  which is aimed squarely at managers.

“Managers today must meet the needs of dispersed, burned out, always-on teams who are setting new boundaries. With these new ways of working, managers need new ways of learning and growing into leaders. They need on-the-job guidance and personalized feedback that evolves with them, so they can better lead their teams — and they need it now,” says Joseph Freed, head of product for Perceptyx’s talent development products. 

The Perceptyx solution uses AI to analyze active feedback from 360 surveys as well as opt-in passive listening signals from workplace communication channels, such as Slack, Google Workspaces, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Teams, to find potential manager blind spots and coaching needs. Cultivate Intelligent Coaching identifies how often a leader engages with employees, understands the tone of those interactions, and whether the manager is providing advice or asking for opinions, in addition to how frequently they recognize and encourage their team members. Insights and recommendations are given to the manager through “nudges” and a personalized and private dashboard. New skills can be leveraged immediately.

“The best way to support managers in this environment is through continuous advice, grounded in real insights about that person’s behavior, all within the natural flow of their daily activities. Traditional 360 reviews lack a real-time actionable element and are soon forgotten, left on a shelf to gather dust. Human coaching alone lacks the fidelity of observed behavior and doesn’t scale,” adds Freed.

Community and Communications

Being a manager can feel isolating at times, unless an employer has tools in place to help managers connect with others and build a community. In a recent interview,  Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing Officer of WorkForce Software, shared that the use of the company’s solutions to help build community and provide communications has seen accelerated usage from managers. Says Moran, “We have seen some interesting developments in usage for frontline managers. Managers are being asked to do a lot lately, and the pressure on managers is tremendous as there is no precedent for what businesses have gone through over the past couple of years. One customer created a peer-to-peer group, and the managers communicate with each other and use examples from their own real work life. The group is now self-organized around idea sessions and people can share advice and work on challenges together.”

Moran adds, “The ability to deliver information to managers and employees via different mechanisms is growing in importance. In large, decentralized organizations, when there is not a consistent communication mechanism, it can be very challenging to deliver information. During the pandemic, policies were changing on the spot which left managers in a difficult position.”

Software that can allow for fast communications via a variety of channels, including video, can help take some of the burden off managers who in some circumstances, such as stores or restaurants, were needing to communicate directly or post printed materials.

Product introductions such as Microsoft’s recent launch of the Viva Engage module can also support managers’ needs to build a community as well as communicate with staff more easily, particularly for dispersed workforces or those that are remote or hybrid. Managers can use these technologies as a place to share news and strategy, model culture, speak with employees, and contribute to conversations.

With the prospect of downsizing and budget cutbacks, there is the possibility that managers will be asked to do more with less. It is important for companies to have tools in place to properly support their managers’ well-being, development, and need for connection.

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