New ways of leadership

In the last 3 months we all have walked through something we had not experienced before. This provoked us to discover more about how this era of home offices has changed the way we approach leadership, communication, and cooperation. What might be the main challenges when coming to the “new normal“?

We asked more than 100 managers from local and global IT and shared services companies to share their experience. The data was collected between May 20th and 30th.

We believe statistics provide useful and often very interesting data. What inspires us even more though, are the personal stories behind this unusual, unprecedented period.

Here is a deeper insight into 5 key areas we monitored:

1. Team Productivity

The productivity of teams working from home is probably one of the most discussed topics. In general, it seems there is not much difference whether people work from home or their offices.

Graph 1: The productivity of my team is:

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There is a great diversity of what the employees prefer, though. Regardless of what caused their liking or disliking of working from home (personal dispositions, space and conditions of housing, need of socializing), we are sure now that this is one of the bonuses that makes people tick and managers will need to take it into consideration.

Unlike shared services centers, for example, IT companies had a head start because remote work has been common for many of them. “We have seen a tremendous increase in productivity“, a software development company CEO told us. „Yet, it is quite tricky. There is a momentum when people have the knowledge and the technology. But it wears off in time and then there is a higher need for more face-to-face interactions and learning. So I expect this productivity increase to slow down in the weeks to come.“

2. Challenges Of Remote Leadership

In this chapter, managers could choose multiple options regarding the challenges they have been facing when leading remote teams.

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Graph 2: What challenges have you been facing when leading remote teams?

More to these parameters, we were curious if managers feel that virtual connections may substitute meeting people face-to face. At the beginning of the pandemic period it seemed we all thought it impossible. After all, we are human beings and as such, we prefer the human touch and face-to-face interactions.

On the other hand, many of us seized the situation as a great opportunity to save time, money, and spend more time with people that matter to us the most. Here are some of your comments that make the point:

  • Meetings

    “I spent hours on business trips to Poland every 2 weeks. I discovered MS Teams meetings make the same effect.”
  • Trainings & workshops

    “It felt really weird when we learned that our next training would be on-line. And it went surprisingly well. I felt even more comfortable than being in a real room.”
  • Team-buildings

    “We love our morning informal coffee team meetings. We feel more relaxed and sometimes 10 minutes being together makes us feel connected.”

3. Expected Future Trends

For many of us, the past three months have been like a crazy ride on a roller coaster. The term “social distancing” has become a buzzword. Will this trend continue, or do we expect to get back to the previous standards?

Graph 3: How will the traditional way of cooperation and communication reform?

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This question generated many inspiring answers. As one IT company CEO says: “Before (the pandemic) we had a strict one-day-of-home-office-aweek policy. We will have to seriously rethink this. The new standard may easily be 4 days of HO a week”.

Another SSC manager fears that with the increase of home office requests, team members will gradually lose social contacts and opportunities of faceto- face interaction. And with limited body language visible in the online environment, communication will become even more difficult.

A shared service center Finance Manager said: “We can let go many of our concerns that we will not "see what our employees do at home"… We were forced to trust them, and it worked surprisingly well”.

“There´s no point in going fully back to square 1 as before”.

4. New Demands On Managers

It turns out that managers in the IT and SSCs are already used to the on-line environment. On the other hand, they do realize that leading remote teams requires something more. Discovering new collaboration tools boosted enormous potential of managers to be creative.

Question 4: As a leader, in which areas do you think you will need to transform the most?

The answers can be put into 4 major categories:

1. Learn and apply the principles of virtual management, remote leadership skills

2. Discover and adapt to new tools that keep people engaged and motivated

3. Foster team atmosphere and connections

4. Identify and understand individual needs of remote team members

5. Personal Learnings

Question 5: What learnings have you gained throughout this pandemic period?

We put all your answers to the question into a bowl (figuratively, of course). We shook the bowl. They all merged into one resounding message:

We all, as people, are more than well able to adapt.

Let us quote some of your comments that resonate and express most of your points:

  • Our world was too fast. Pandemic made it a bit slower.
  • Work efficiency did not drop down.
  • People work from home very well.
  • I discovered real characters of people. Faster than ever before.
  • I experienced a feeling of huge team cohesiveness and cooperation.
  • The importance of having engaged teams in difficult moments is essential.

And there was one more area of unanimous agreement. An SSC Director says it all: “I can rely on my team. I knew it before but their cooperation and willingness to support during this time was simply amazing”.

We hope you will always have a team of people you can trust and rely on.

New ways of leadership
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