Inspirational managers activate employee engagement, inspire positive energy and retention, and help build thriving work cultures. According to Glint’s 2021 State of the Manager Report, employees who recommend their manager are 2.3x more likely to be engaged, 2x more likely to stay with the organization, and 2.3x more likely to have clarity about their company’s strategy.

But even before the pandemic, being a manager was a difficult and precarious balancing act. The latest People Success Community event—a virtual gathering for HR leaders from a wide range of organizations and industries—recognized that supporting managers is especially critical right now. 

During this quarter’s meetup, leaders discussed the biggest struggles managers are facing and how to best support them now and in the future. Let’s take a deeper look at those challenges and how organizations can remove roadblocks to help managers thrive. 

Managers’ top challenges: workload, plus lack of clarity and power

While managers deal with a wide array of challenges on a daily basis, leaders identified three clear themes that represent the biggest pain points for managers right now. 

1. Too much work. In a poll, 81% of leaders said that overwhelming workload is the number one thing that managers are struggling with today. The pandemic has fueled an “always on” mode of work, and in some instances, the virtual nature of work has prompted organizations to exert greater oversight, resulting in more command-and-control mentalities and micromanaging. Additionally, while technology makes it easier to connect in a remote working environment, many leaders noted that managers are now overloaded with collaboration requests. 

Managers are so busy doing their day-to-day work that they’re lacking time and support to connect with employees in meaningful ways, which is essential to driving employee engagement and retention. 

2. Lack of clarity. Given the ongoing prevalence of remote work, the way we connect with our colleagues and share information across the organization is different. Additionally, the ever-changing shifts brought on by the pandemic continue to cause uncertainty for both work and personal life. 

Many leaders also voiced that their organizations have gone through structural changes over the last year—whether a reorganization, merger, or acquisition. This only builds upon the ambiguity managers face as it relates to strategic and role clarity. 

When managers do not have clear insight into their organization’s strategy or time to share that information with their employees, their teams will lack the guidance to prioritize their own work and goals. 

3. No power to act. Managers who feel empowered to make decisions at work are 3x more likely to be engaged. However, 32% of organizations saw a drop in their empowerment score as the pandemic spread between March 1 and mid-May 2020. 

Today’s HR practitioners identified that the increased lack of clarity leads to a lack of defined decisionmakers. In today’s work environment, managers and leaders lack the ability to quickly clear roadblocks, which leads to barriers to execution. These challenges become even more significant for remote, dispersed teams.

Solutions to help managers: role modeling, prioritization, and empowerment

What can we do to unlock managers’ potential in the new world of work?

Leadership role modeling. The way we work has changed forever and many organizations need to shift their mindsets and company cultures to better support managers and employees now and in the future. In order for change to happen, senior leaders need to be role models for their organizations. 

For example, senior leaders often say they want to address burnout and workload issues, but they also send late-night emails that make it hard for managers to unplug. Or they never take vacation despite encouraging their team to take a break. By role modeling new behaviors, senior leaders can help combat overwhelming workload challenges as well as the burnout that comes with it.  

Prioritization. The path to easing workloads often evades organizations’ grasp, and managers who lack autonomy in their work struggle with what to prioritize and what to delegate to their teams. This can be helped by thinking about the three t’s:

  • Trust 
  • Transparency
  • Time

By placing value on these three t’s, it creates the precious foundation that managers need in order to build alignment and clarity. 

One leader’s organization is even going one step further and hosting roundtable discussions to hear directly from managers on what the organization can do to help them concentrate on their managerial skills moving forward. 

Empowerment. Senior leaders can not only act as role models, they can also help empower managers by employing the four c’s:

  • Collaborate with managers to help prioritize their work. 
  • Clear roadblocks for them. 
  • Connect managers with others to help them build their networks. 
  • Communicate frequently to make any necessary adjustments. 

Lastly, employee engagement data is incredibly valuable for managers. Share survey results with them to give them insights into their team, and encourage them to take action. This approach not only supports manager empowerment, but also team engagement.

Final thoughts: invest in manager success 

Successful managers are the secret sauce for high-performing teams and organizations. However, they are the ones bearing the brunt of the huge shifts in the workplace. By giving them the insights into what is happening within their workforce, especially during long periods of uncertainty, leaders can help them respond, prioritize, take action, and thrive.

The State of the Manager Report is here to support your organization with insights, inspiration, and one particularly critical idea: organizations succeed when people succeed.