The last year was fraught with challenges for people professionals and front-line managers, with changing work situations for most. Alongside the practicalities of implementing remote working, and employees juggling home-schooling and health concerns, there’s the not-so-insignificant issue of how to motivate and communicate with remote teams.

Research suggests that 2020 has been the most stressful year in history, with working from home and the threat of redundancy taking its toll on employee’s mental health, and people managers are in the front line when it comes to taking responsibility for their employees.

Given we’re now facing a second year of challenges, here are the key priorities for people professionals and people managers:


Online performance management

While there have been gradual shifts by some employers towards online performance management solutions, a second year of enforced home-working means that if you haven’t yet moved towards a digital check-in process then this should be top of your list. Employees need clarity. Given the current rapidly changing situation for many businesses, a flexible check-in process can be a lifeline. The current swathe of digital tools like Appraisd are easy to implement (read our case-study here), and can allow for line managers to keep in touch with their direct reports, ensuring they know what they should be working towards and how to achieve their tasks. Old-style paper-based annual appraisals need to be consigned to the past, so the shorter review cycles that are possible with new digital tools can be put in place.



Wellbeing has been at the forefront for many employers this year, with this summary from the CIPD in the UK:

‘It is well known that many employees do not feel comfortable in speaking up about poor mental health…. Employers will need to adapt a range of measures to support employees experiencing poor mental health as a result of COVID-19 and its effects on society and the economy. Measures will need to range from supporting employees to regaining an effective work-life balance and addressing fears about return to work, right through to support for severe mental health conditions.’

Implementing wellbeing programmes and initiatives can have a short-term impact but keeping wellbeing on the agenda and part of the ‘business as usual’ requires a different approach, one that requires managers to be comfortable with the ‘are you okay?’ conversations and looking for signs so early intervention can take place.


Support for employee-driven learning

Without those naturally occurring face-to-face conversations with colleagues, people need somewhere to go for a chance to ‘bounce’ their ideas around about their personal development. Research of over 6,000 office workers in SMB’s across Europe shows that the under 30s are missing out on core skills needed for career progression as a result of working remotely.

Future of work organizational psychologist, Viola Kraus explains “There is a growing trend that the youngest generation of workers, as ‘digital natives’ who know how to use tech, can be left to their own devices, to figure it out alone.’

‘This generation not only need to be taught the skills to get the best from technology but need to be taught general business skills to progress in their job. These young workers’ fears for career development likely stem from a lack of connection and direction from their team and senior colleagues while working remotely, so it’s important to ensure that while we continue to work virtually, employers provide guidance and a formalised platform where peer-to-peer learning is encouraged, and eventually it happens naturally.”

Companies don’t need to race to churn out their own learning content, or to necessarily create complex solutions. Giving people the skills to self-direct and manage their own learning is the key. Providing tools and a company framework for this to happen doesn’t need to be high-tech to be effective. For example, at Talentstorm, we offer personal development coaching to promote self-directed learning.


New skills for managers

Making sure managers have the necessary skills to support their people going forward, whilst looking after themselves now looks like it needs to be a marathon and not a sprint. Creating a true learning organisation with managers that can take responsibility for developing themselves to meet the ‘new normal’ is an investment that will pay off with great dividends. Managers can encourage employees to take care of their well-being and mental health by acting as effective role models and can lead the way in terms of making regular opportunities to bring employees together virtually, for informal and social gatherings in addition to regular meetings. Regular check-ins, well-being conversations, and knowing what to do in the event of a mental health disclosure are all skills that are essential for managers right now.

Need support implementing any of the above?

At Talentstorm we have:

Join our online community in our FREE Facebook group The Learning & Development Hub.

Sign up for our People Development blog, to get our blogs delivered straight into your inbox.