by Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of JourneyHR


The Covid-19 crisis has caused mass disruption across businesses, bringing rapid and unexpected changes. Many organisations have been forced to reshape and for managers, this has resulted in greater pressure. Not only have managers had to continue to oversee daily operations through this period of deep financial uncertainty but they’ve had the added responsibility of motivating a remote workforce. 


The culture of small businesses is one where the performance and success of a manager is often based on external rather than internal results, particularly in times of difficulty, but this approach risks undermining the importance of people management.  


Disengaged employees cost the UK between £52-70 billion in lost productivity every year. In a difficult economic environment, it’s vital that businesses do everything they can to keep their employees happy and engaged and this relies on managers having a good understanding and appreciation of their individual team members, their needs and their motivations. 


The six conditions of people management 


As businesses start to recover from recent events, teams should regroup and understand what they’re there to do. In small businesses especially, role clarity can become blurred so getting the structure right and really defining the role of manager and each individual team member is crucial.


While each employee will have their own motivators, there are six key ways managers can help create a working environment that fosters greater employee engagement and development. 



A sense of purpose is a core motivator for many of us and with so many unknowns right now, it’s important that managers help their teams to find meaning in their work and connect with a greater sense of purpose. Employees should understand how their contribution fits into the bigger picture and the overall success of the business.



To avoid complacency and disengagement, employees should be given new challenges and equipped with the skills and tools to achieve those. Encouraging employees to step outside of their comfort zone can help them to reach new potential and instil a greater sense of confidence and motivation.



As a manager, it’s key that your team has pride in the work they do so understanding their tasks and providing constructive feedback gives them the opportunity to improve and develop. Managers need to be consistent about what they expect and how they’ll measure success and this honest and open dialogue should work both ways so that managers understand when they need to offer greater support.  



Developing a clear career path for employees and offering ways to upskill is an important part of the engagement process. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees would consider staying in their current role and company longer if they were given more opportunities to invest in their careers. An environment that supports and encourages learning and development is beneficial for the whole company. It helps employees feel more motivated and connected to their work, while also bridging the skills gap needed to help businesses adapt and grow through this period.  



Micromanagement can have an adverse effect on teams, leading to increased levels of frustration and dissatisfaction. In contrast, empowering employees to make their own decisions and offering support in times of challenge can boost engagement. Moreover, enabling employees to use their own initiative and play to their strengths will work wonders for their confidence and sense of value.



In times of uncertainty, businesses can become consumed with profit margins and client wins, but employees should continue to be recognised and applauded for a job well done. Implementing regular rewards for hitting targets or going that extra mile, and being consistent with those rewards, will incentivise employees to perform at their best.  


Prioritising people everyday 

There is no hard and fast rule to becoming the perfect manager – every manager will be different, just like every team member. However, recognising, respecting and appreciating the differences within their team and understanding what works for each person will set them in great stead. 


Communication is paramount; regular one-to-ones and an open-door policy will build a culture of trust, honesty and support that is critical to success. 


While it would be unrealistic to expect managers to successfully tick off all the above conditions on a daily basis, weaving elements into the business’ everyday practices and culture will make a huge difference. Managers should also regularly ask employees for feedback. Do they feel challenged? Do they feel a sense of purpose? Are they learning and progressing? What more can the business do to support them?


The time and effort that managers invest in their teams will not be without merit. Employees will work harder, be more productive and enjoy their work more. This in turn will allow managers to delegate more tasks, giving themselves more time to focus on their own development.  


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