Thanks for reading our briefing about what companies are doing to navigate the continued reality of remote work, to reopen safely, and to reset their practices for the long-run. You can sign up here to receive it by email as well.
The business impact: Consumer spending fell slightly in May, as people shifted from buying high-pricetag items like cars and furniture to services such as drinking and dining out. American Express said travel bookings were at 95% of their May 2019 level. Small businesses are more optimistic than they have been about the outlook for their revenue a year from now, with 57% predicting it will increase. Over 80% of CEOs from companies of all sizes believe their revenue will be higher over the same period.
Focus on What a Good Manager of Hybrid Work Does
When we surveyed return-to-workplace decision-makers this spring, their top concern was adequate support and training for managers. This week I spoke with two experts on hybrid work and asked them for their advice: Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at London Business School, and Ashok Krish, global head of the digital workplace practice at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Here is an excerpt from our conversation, edited for space and clarity:
How does the role of the manager need to change in hybrid work? And what does a high-performing manager do that might be different from what they did before?
GRATTON: We've been very lazy about the role of the manager. We've basically said managers, 'Oh, do you mean that's the frozen level in the middle? The bit where there are the people that stop anything from happening?' And actually we're suddenly realizing that the manager plays a pivotal role.
The manager has two big roles. One is to help people thrive. The second is to curate workflows. Now there are some companies—Telstra, for example, out of Australia—that have actually separated those two jobs completely and said, look, there's a manager of work and there's a manager of people. And I think that that's the level of specificity we need to get to.
We've also got to do a lot more to train managers. I've been very taken with what Standard Chartered Bank has been doing recently to say, look, we've spent millions on leaders. We've got 14,000 managers out there. What the hell have we done for them?
Now, of course you can't do the huge leadership programs that we do at London Business School for managers, mostly because there's so many of them. You've got to be much more creative. If you take a look at where the investment has gone since hybrid, a lot of investment has gone into building training platforms. This is a fantastically interesting area at the moment. We need to train managers, and we've got to do it partly virtual. There's a scramble happening using virtual reality goggles, all sorts of things, to help managers do their job better.
Ashok, what does a high-performing manager do within a hybrid approach?
KRISH: Look at TCS—we have upwards of almost 100,000 people who are in mid-level management roles, which is that they oversee at least five people or so. We've learned a tremendous number of things about that specific demographic.
One is that they presented the single biggest challenge in actually successfully transitioning to hybrid ways of work and being effective at it.
A couple of broad observations: most leadership styles tend to evolve naturally and implicitly in the physical workspace. We are social beings and with good managers, we don't have to teach them to be good managers because they just naturally are. They tend to be extroverted. They sense when people are having problems, they have no problems reaching out, asking for help and so on. There are certain implicit things that nobody has to write in a manual. None of those skills translates very well into remote work.
For starters, bizarrely enough, introverts make better remote collaborators. What we found is that introverted managers who weren't particularly very good in the physical workplace were more empathetic the moment they were behind the screen. They actually were quite happy to do one-on-one chats. And we discovered that managers who did more one-on-one casual chats with their direct reports more frequently had happier, less-stressed teams and in general those teams are more productive as well. Natural extroverted managers simply found themselves at a loss.
The other element here is level of trust. Are you a low-trust person or a high-trust person? We discovered interesting data points, like how many meetings do you have where there is a manager, their direct reports, and their direct reports? If you have too many of those meetings, it essentially means that this manager does not seem to trust their direct reports.
We pretty soon realized that there has to be an intentionality and a deliberate way of telling managers that there are some things that you have to start doing. Those are not the sorts of things you would teach someone to do in a physical workplace, but you have to teach them to do this year. Shorter meeting times, making sure data is visible to more people, having a culture of working out loud. Having meetings where you don't have three levels of hierarchy in every standup or status meeting. You have to ritualize these kinds of things. Otherwise, we think people will just learn it themselves. They will not.
Content from our partner McKinsey & Company
The pluses of paternity leave. Maternity leave is a benefit many take for granted—but time off for new fathers can also make a big difference for employees and their families. For Father's Day, check out McKinsey research on why it matters and what dads who took leave want their employers to know.
What Else You Need to Know
With Juneteenth declared a federal holiday, businesses are scrambling. Just 9% of companies previously had a policy of offering a paid day off for Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the US, according to a Mercer survey.
- Given the short turnaround from the federal announcement, many organizations are giving employees an extra floating day off this year.
- Businesses aren’t required to give workers a paid day off. Just 55% of companies do for Martin Luther King Jr. day, for example, even though it has been a national holiday since 1983.
- It’s possible that employers who decide to add the June 19th holiday could remove another day off. Already Columbus Day (known instead as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in some places) is only observed by 9%.
- Election day is a paid holiday at just 2% of companies, according to Mercer. (That compares to 73% for the day after Thanksgiving and 22% for Good Friday.) The Juneteenth recognition is a good moment for businesses to assess their holiday calendars, and giving people a day off to vote makes sense as well.
One legacy of slavery and discrimination is that the median wage for Black workers remains 30% lower than that of white workers.
- And when researchers recently surveyed 19,000 Harvard Business Review readers, 65% said their organizations are not diverse and inclusive.
- Ninety-five percent of Black, Latinx, or Native workers surveyed separately said they experienced racism in both their current and previous workplace.
One way to honor Juneteenth is to spend a day working actively to fix imbalances of opportunity, compensation, and representation and fund initiatives to expand leadership opportunities for Black workers.
More new survey data support the idea that companies could have retention problems in the coming months.
- Ten percent of white workers are actively looking to change employers, and an additional 41% are considering looking, according to a new poll by Slack’s Future Forum.
- Those numbers are higher for workers of other races, with 65% of Asian, 69% of Hispanic, and 72% of Black employees either actively looking or considering looking.
- Thirty-two percent of workers say they intend to look for a new role in the next several months, according to a separate poll by Robert Half.
- A Microsoft survey had previously said that 41% of people were considering leaving their employer this year. And nearly four million people quit their jobs in April, the highest number in government records.
- As we’ve written before, the experience of organizations that have made such a switch supports the idea that workers are more productive during the time they work, and have significantly improved quality of life.
Return to workplace speed round:
- Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman publicly expressed his strong bias for his employees to be in the office: “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office—and we want you in the office.”
- Some companies are rethinking their plans to cut their office space. Just 9% of large companies expect their real-estate footprints will get “significantly smaller” over the next three years, compared to 39% who said that in September. But 72% plan on modest space reductions, up from 45% in September. Questions around accommodating hybrid work and adding space for collaboration seem to be primary considerations for companies.
- Workers are in sync with what research says about how they should spend their time in the workplace. They see collaborating and socializing as the two primary reasons for going to their workplace, according to a new LinkedIn survey.
- Office occupancy has finally exceeded 30% of pre-Covid activity nationally for buildings using Kastle access systems, as of June 14.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- “Loom>Zoom>Room.” That’s how investor Jason Calacanis describes a new approach for startup fundraising. He explained on Twitter: “1. send the investor a custom @loom [video clip] of you running through your deck, 2. jump on a @Zoom to answer questions, and finally close the deal in a conference room in person!” It’s an approach that could seemingly work in other areas, like sales or research, as well.
- Write an honest out-of-office message. One Biden staffer’s recent OOO message read in part: “My wife has told me she is not putting up with any work shit or me sneaking off to do conference calls so I am really going to get off the grid.” Writer Charlie Warzel suggests that such frankness could help other people really take time off, and also recommends a fun OOO-message generator that uses Wikipedia.
- Remind people that you don’t expect an instant response to your email. One Amazon executive includes a footer in her messages that reads “TRULY HUMAN NOTICE: Getting this email out of normal working hours? We work at a digitally-enabled relentless pace, which can disrupt our ability to sleep enough, eat right, exercise, and spend time with the people that matter most. I am sending you this email at a time that works for me. I only expect you to respond to it when convenient to you.”
The ‘right to work at home’ was rejected by the UK government. Ministers denied drawing up plans to make it illegal for employers to require workers to spend time in the office post-pandemic.
Coloradans need not apply. That’s a disclaimer at least 83 companies have added to their postings for remote positions that otherwise can be done from anywhere.
- They’re trying to sidestep a Colorado law that requires employers to post expected salaries for open positions—and the companies recruiting don’t want to go through the hassle or provide that kind of transparency.
- The compensation transparency law is meant to result in fairer pay, including by reducing gender wage gaps.
Being featured in a management book might be a sign that a company has peaked. One researcher studied 50 firms featured in the popular business bestsellers: In Search of Excellence, Good to Great, and Built to Last.
- Sixteen of the companies failed within five years after publication, 23 underperformed the S&P 500 index, and just five of the 50 maintained their level of excellence.
- “The CEOs were never that special in the first place,” posits Chengwei Liu in the Harvard Business Review. “It was luck that enabled their successes and unwarranted attention.”
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.