With many companies embracing New Work practices, the demands on managers are changing rapidly – and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has catalyzed this development. Employees were suddenly on their own and working from home – and they clearly felt the benefits of flexibility and autonomy. Companies have also seen the positive effects.
In addition to flexibility and autonomy, doing meaningful work became increasingly important during the corona crisis, as the corporate culture could no longer be felt in remote settings. The meaning of work therefore needed to be discussed via other channels in order to keep employees motivated – a task which largely fell on managers. Here, we’ve put together a list of new challenges that New Work poses for leaders – and what companies must now consider when training new managers.
The role of leaders in a New Work environment
Managers play a crucial role in the context of New Work and New Leadership, despite the fact that the very concept places less worth on their authority. New Leadership has less to do with simply giving orders or delegating tasks. In a New Work company, the organization is viewed first and foremost as a community. Above all, managers are tasked with empowering employees, harnessing their motivation and serving as role models for living the company’s values.
Decision-making in a New Work leadership culture
New Work is also changing the way decisions are made. Whereas in the past, decisions were made solely by managers within established hierarchies, this process is being broken down by New Work. Here, we’ll discuss two different New Work decision-making models.
Flat hierarchies are probably as common a phrase these days as New Work itself. A flat hierarchy describes an organizational structure with very few hierarchical levels. Managers at higher levels deliberately refrain from intervening in the decisions of lower ranks, and encourage personal initiatives and responsibility.
A democratic leadership culture
In a democratic leadership culture, decisions are made jointly. Employees are actively involved, which often makes for a longer decision-making process, but has a positive effect on motivation, performance and culture.
The role of values in New Work management
New Work cannot function without a specific corporate culture, of which company values are an indispensable part. Here are some to keep in mind:
A sense of purpose
Jobs in the age of New Work should not only bring in money, but also create meaning. Employees often ask themselves the question: “Why am I working here?” and should be able to arrive at an answer that’s aligned with their personal values. At the same time, managers should try to find common goals with individual team members.
Managers are increasingly moving into coaching positions. Even if they’re not necessarily supervising individual employees, they’re encouraged to recognize and promote potential. The aim is to enable team members and teams to work in a future-oriented manner.
Positive culture of mistakes
Mistakes are human. New Work Leadership does not focus on mistakes made, but on what can be learned from them.
Here’s what employees need from their managers
New Work is also changing the expectations employees have of their managers. If you want to work on your own initiatives autonomously, you need managers who enable and encourage this. These 3 points are highly valued by many employees in New Work companies:
Talented and well-educated people are searching for more than just a job to make a living. They’re looking for work that’s meaningful, fits their lives and needs, and a job in which they can realize their own potential. Freedom and flexibility are at the forefront here.
Diversity and inclusion
One thing’s for sure – diverse teams perform better. Why? For one thing, heterogeneity helps with problem solving. While homogeneous teams often only bring the same perspective to a problem and similar approaches to solving it, heterogeneous teams have different experiences, knowledge and potential. Diversity and inclusion refers to various factors, including but not limited to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and even personality traits.
It’s not only important to put together diverse teams, but also to allow discussions to arise without intervening. Through fruitful discourse, good decisions can be made in the long term.
Accelerated by the pandemic, location-independent work has increased – whether working from home or remotely. Teams are now working across greater geographical distances. This not only creates freedom for employees who want to work from multiple locations, but also for those who want to better manage time for their families.
Conclusion: New Work leaders are the people who make things possible
The role of managers in New Work companies is changing rapidly. Today, New Work leaders are enablers. They make decisions not about their team, but with their team, and act as role models for the execution of the company’s values and culture. Supporting and responding to the individual needs of employees is becoming one of the most important tasks of New Work managers.