The world of work looks very different to how it did at the beginning of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in change at an unprecedented speed, with remote working and flexible arrangements much more widespread. But despite being forced to adapt quickly, many organizations are still finding an equilibrium that suits both managers and the workforce.
Remote management requires a different set of skills to dealing with employees face-to-face in an office environment. Trust, delegation and empowerment are needed for the relationship to work and be productive in these new circumstances. While a shift in attitudes is necessary, it’s not always easy to achieve.
The issues with top-down management
Top-down management has been the status quo for a long time, with many organizations not keen to let it go. This is despite the fact it’s become outdated and is no longer serving its purpose well. Instead, it can lead to problems with employee engagement and put a lot of pressure on senior executives. Here’s why it should go the same way as the dinosaurs:
1. Stifled talent
The top-down management model often means staff end up being the executors of instructions as opposed to independent thinkers. Without the freedom to be curious, talent is stifled and unable to reach its full potential, leading businesses to miss out on maximizing their most valuable resources.
2. A lack of resilience
Strong dependence on leaders at the top of a company can make it less resilient and more susceptible to falling apart over a relatively small problem. Pyramid-shaped businesses can’t respond quickly to changes or make fast decisions when required, meaning challenges are exacerbated as opposed to being dealt with speedily.
3. Managers with low confidence
A global survey to see how COVID-19 has impacted workers and employers found 40% of managers and supervisors had low confidence in their ability to manage a remote workforce. Applying age-old techniques to new circumstances isn’t effective and the reality is that many managers haven’t been given any specialist training for an evolving situation.
4. Negative perception of employees
Negative attitudes about remote working in general can lead to distrust of employees by some managers. Without the opportunity to oversee them in the same way they would in an office, supervisors can question workers’ motivation and abilities. This may be partly born from the fact that the pandemic brought about remote working so abruptly without time for proper preparation.
5. Communication challenges
New parameters for the workplace mean different ways of communicating, collaborating and sharing information. Tools like email, chat channels and video call software can help to overcome some of these challenges, but they come with issues of their own, like deciding who to include and lacking the relationship-building potential of face-to-face meetings.
Are asynchronous workflows the answer?
If top-down management is no longer fit for purpose in a post-pandemic world, what is the answer? Some suggest it comes in the form of asynchronous workflows, which enable employees to organize tasks around their own timetable. In this system, not all staff need to work simultaneously and individuals can maximize their productivity without relying on others to complete their part of a project first.
Asynchronous work relies on documentation and transparency, as well as three main tenets: multiplexing, communication and action. When they’re well implemented, an asynchronous system can produce results faster and be more flexible than traditional management approaches. It can give organizations a competitive edge over others in the same industry.
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