Coca-Cola Amatil HRD on learning to lead a flexible team

HRD looks at the challenges facing a hybrid workforce

Coca-Cola Amatil HRD on learning to lead a flexible team

Hybrid, remote, flexible - whatever you want to call it – these are the future for many employees across New Zealand.

While offices are reopening and day-to-day life feels relatively normal, employee expectations have certainly shifted.

New ways of working are here to stay, so how can leaders be equipped to govern their people from afar?

HRD spoke to Susan Lowe, people & culture director for Coca-Cola Amatil's Pacific region and one of the speakers at HRD’s upcoming National HR Summit New Zealand.

She said flexibility was already among jobseeker priorities before the pandemic but 2020 accelerated the trend.

While some employers had already become forward-thinking in their arrangements, others were thrust into a remote workforce model with very little preparation.

“The challenge for organisations which have been forced into the situation where people are working remotely and separate from each other is how do you do that well?” Lowe said.

“Because what it takes to be a team leader when all of your people are right there in front of you is very different when they're all remote.”

Read more: What will HR look like in 2021?

Off the back of this remote shift, leadership skills have evolved over the past 12 months.

We've seen a marked rise in the importance of soft skills to keep employees engaged through the crisis.

Without the ability to talk face-to-face, virtual alternatives have really forced people leaders to rethink how they build relationships with staff – and in particular new recruits.

“It really brings to the fore just how important communication is,” Lowe said. “You’re having conversations you might not have had with a direct report before and learning how you communicate best with somebody.”

She noted that going forward, people leaders may have to juggle various different working arrangements within one team.

And most importantly, they need to be able to communicate with staff when a flexible working arrangement is no longer working.

This ability to communicate effectively has become a key skill for leaders of a remote workforce and that’ll continue throughout 2021.

Read more: Wave bye bye to five-day office work, Unilever CEO says

Another important factor when it comes to leading remotely is mindset, Lowe said.

While fears over productivity dominated during the early stages of the pandemic, for many businesses the reality saw people working longer hours and putting in more discretionary effort.

But despite this, some leaders will still struggle to trust their employees when they can’t see them sitting at their desks.

“It’s about challenging people's mindsets around productivity,” Lowe said.

“If you've got really clear objectives, measures and expectations in place, then it shouldn't matter where the person is.”

To hear more from Susan Lowe and other leading HR experts on a range of topics, sign up to HRD’s National HR Summit New Zealand.

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