By Rob Bothma, Strategic Business Solution Architect at Oracle

A year ago, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations were forced into the situation of having their staff working from home. Most organisations anticipated that this situation was temporary and would be short-lived. Now, nearly 12 months on, working from home has evolved into the norm, with many organisations having a more formal and permanent workforce working from home.

With the now seemingly long-term expectations of needing a remote and digitally-enabled workforce, organisations are being challenged to become more agile and resilient to the risks and challenges this pandemic has brought upon us.

It should be noted that gearing up to become a resilient organisation requires the implementation and embedding of iterative processes and not just some once-off knee-jerk reaction. This requires a change in the culture of the organisation, especially when looking at how to empower managers in managing their teams remotely.

“Usually resilience within an organisation is built over time, in times of crises, such as what we are experiencing today, forcing organisations to think outside the box and take immediate actions to avoid disastrous consequences.”

One of the biggest impacts the pandemic has had on the workplace is the challenges now facing line and middle management. The job of a manager has predominantly been to manage office-based teams. All their processes and procedures have been modelled within this framework.

Even within an office-based working environment, many managers have
paid scant attention to conducting true talent management with their subordinates. Many of the HR staff I speak to admit that the amount of
time they spend chasing management to complete their HR functions is limited. Such functions include:

  • Workforce planning and scheduling
  • Creation and completion of the Annual Performance process
  • Ensuring succession plans exist for key jobs
  • Conducting meaningful career planning
  • Ensuring all team members have a proper learning and development plan in place.

With employees and managers working remotely, this challenge has now become even greater. Fortunately, we have had the simultaneous advent of sophisticated HR solutions with embedded emerging technologies, which are now designed to keep all the various end-users needs in mind, as opposed to traditional designs that catered only to the needs of core HR users.

As managers now need to manage their teams remotely, there is a need for increased levels of assistance from HR. However, with many HR staff also working from home, the burden has shifted to the organisation to ensure that the solutions in place are able to better meet these needs.

Intuitive and self-driving HR solutions incorporating all the latest artificial intelligence functionalities provide a greater focus on employee engagement, driven through emerging technologies such as:

  • Chatbots
  • Machine Learning
  • Predictive Analysis
  • Real-time Dashboards
  • Intelligence-driven workflow processes

Through these, HR teams can empower managers to begin fulfilling their line HR functions in ways that have an impact on the organisation and on the efficiency and effectiveness of their teams.

For example, by providing a manager with an intelligent self-driving process for a promotion or transfer, he or she is empowered to perform this function without the assistance of an HR representative. HR would have already configured the system processes and logic flows to the system rules.

All the manager is required to do is process the transaction. As they move through the various guided steps of the process, relevant prompts will appear to guide them in completing all aspects of the transaction.

In addition, with the latest technologies available, managers now also have access to real-time data displayed on graphical dashboards providing them with insights into the workings of their teams and empowering them to start having meaningful talent management conversations.

To ensure success within their teams, managers need to have the right skills to conduct more in-depth talent-related conversations with their subordinates, made more challenging by having to do them remotely via video call.

It’s a very easy discussion when you are dealing with an employee who is either meeting or exceeding their performance goals and objectives. A different set of skills is required when having a discussion with an employee who is either displaying unacceptable behaviour or whose performance level is below par. The manager now needs to encourage the employee to change his or her behaviour at home rather than in the formal office environment.

When a manager is provided with a toolset that provides a more holistic view of the employee, showing an integrated view of the talent and other HR-related data, he/she is empowered to make far more informed decisions.

When looking at an employee’s performance, for example, it’s critical to be able to look at the performance trends of the employee over a protracted period of time as one poor period of performance does not make for a poor employee. There could be many mitigating factors contributing to their sub-standard performance, such as struggling with new responsibilities, getting to grips with new skills, lacking experience, or dealing with a change in their own personal situation. All or some of these could be contributing to poor performance.

By comparing the employee’s current performance to that of previous periods, one can determine whether this is a one-off situation or a trend. The manager then better able to identify the root cause of the issue and the steps needed to assist the employee in rectifying the situation.

Ultimately a manager’s success depends on the success of his/her team. The more that managers can empower their employees to achieve, the more they themselves will grow and thrive, thus enabling both their teams and their organisations to succeed.

“In summary, the current pandemic is forcing HR to empower their management teams to successfully manage their teams remotely, thereby assisting their employees in meeting or exceeding their performance and development goals. It’s no longer viable for HR to just play an administrative “push” role and expect managers to execute their line HR functions. Managers require the right tools and skills to assist them in their decisionmaking processes.”