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Bravery key to empowering line managers 

James Stewart
strategy

In recent years, workplaces and the role of a line manager in particular have shifted significantly, moving away from predictable routines, strict working times and an uncompromising hierarchy. The new workplace has been transformed by a fresh workforce seeking responsibility and aspiring to progress up the career ladder. Offering his thoughts on why employers should be embracing change is James Stewart, chief operating officer – Macildowie. 

Over the last decade, views about the traditional nine-to-five have altered dramatically. Thanks to automation, work that once took days to complete can now be done within minutes and the introduction of new working practices, like flexible working, have helped to shape the office environment and its culture. Some businesses have started to embrace a number of ‘work perk’ practices such as flexible and remote working.

While employers seek to improve company culture and employee wellbeing, the challenge for line managers and senior teams, is how to monitor flexible working without letting standards slip.

A line manager plays an integral role in the operation of a business, responsible for managing employees and resources, in pursuit of achieving a company-wide goal. With the operation of a team resting on their shoulders, and regular face-to-face contact made more challenging by the rise of remote and flexible working, the challenge of increasing the productivity of a team can be difficult.  

Since the 1980s, technological advances have opened up opportunities for many to work from almost anywhere. The benefits for both employee and business are significant, from the ability to improve work-life balance, to the enhanced morale among divisions – all helping to build a solid company culture. 

Ensuring the commitment of line managers and the involvement of the HR team is vital to the success of flexible working. To really see the benefits of the system, senior teams must foster a culture based on trust, respect and crucially, accountability.

New technologies and HR solutions help some businesses work to improve the awareness a line manager has of the tasks being worked on by their team, making remote working and arranging flexi-time a simpler solution to manage. It should be noted however, that these don’t always work for every business – it comes down to company culture and in an organisation based on trust and shared responsibility some of these solutions aren’t a natural fit. 

The organisational culture of any company has to be right in order for the business, from back-office to front, to reap the rewards of new tech. Without it, embedding the desired change in behaviours is often more difficult than implementing the tech in the first place.  In that situation the imagined return on investment often never materialises.  

At Macildowie, we motivate our teams to stand out as individuals, to take responsibility for their role, their division, including embracing new ideas, through our ethos of becoming the ‘CEO of your own desk’. 

The mentality encourages our teams to set their own development plan and most importantly, take accountability for their day-to-day role. By taking control of their working life and managing their time more effectively, they give line managers more freedom to oversee other areas of the business such as training, development, and performance coaching. Over the years, we have discovered this mentality inspires our teams, no matter their ‘office rank’, to take charge and feel as though you are making a difference to the business.

This mentality too, plays a pivotal role in the modern workforce. No longer are employees restricted by the rigid parameters of their contracts, instead businesses are creating a series of unwritten rules that go beyond the standard contract or agreement. 

This theory, widely known as a ‘psychological contract’, originated in the 1960s and outlines the beliefs, understandings and commitments shared between employer and employee. This intangible psychological contract will define the unwritten expectations, shared values and perceptions between the two parties. 

Particularly today, millennials and the Gen-Z workforce are actively looking for responsibility, with a desire to progress up the career ladder, and are searching for opportunities to demonstrate their ambition. The psychological contract helps businesses to define their culture and operating procedures, as well as communicating to staff that opportunities to individually thrive are available. 

From a recruitment perspective, it may also work in favour of helping to attract and retain the younger generation, showcasing to those in the job market that the business and its goals are open to interpretation. 

We acknowledge that no two people are the same. It’s crucial for businesses, and equally, line managers, to understand their workforce and allow them to thrive, not just from hitting targets, but also by taking charge of their own work. 

Talented employees that have freedom and trust from their line managers to be innovators and contributors, rather than simply following orders, are far more likely to feel valued and happy, and therefore more likely to see their long-term future with the company. 

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