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Management in 2021: compassion boosts the bottom line

15 January 2021: The need for a compassionate and inclusive management style that builds trust with employees is among the key workplace trends that look set to emerge from the pandemic experience.

Organisational cultures built on mutual respect have been better able to weather the storm, according to a new report from The Workforce Institute, which warns that the COVID experience has changed the world of work forever. It believes that organisations led by compassionate and inclusive management that emphasises empathy, wellness, and belonging are more likely to thrive in 2021. 

CFOs have a pivotal role to play alongside CEOs and heads of HR to develop policies that protect their people and their bottom line while moving the business forward, the report says. It predicts that next year organisations will start to make conscious and deliberate decision about policies, processes and practices. However, they may take years to solidify, therefore the future of work will be steeped in the ability to embrace uncertainty, the report continues. 

Trust in employees will be key as they continue to split their time between home and office-based working, but also to mitigate the effects of burnout and to best position organisations as a destination for talent. “They will achieve more because employees will enjoy an elevated experience that is only possible when they are treated as a stakeholder in the business,” the report adds.

Jennifer Jones FCA is a consultant at Metis, which advises organisations on strategic projects, profitability, change management and cultural transformation, and a member of ICAEW’s Business & Management Faculty Board. 

“Managing people remotely can be a struggle and at the same time employees may be feeling insecure about jobs and there are uncertainties in every walk of life. Therefore, managers need to be honest about what’s going on, remember there’s no harm in showing a bit of vulnerability themselves and lead by example. Communication is absolutely key to that and being aware that the way you communicate will affect different people in different ways,” Jones says. 

While the temptation may be to treat people all the same, emotional intelligence was an important skill, Jones said. “It’s about really listening to what people are going through and keeping an open mind.” 

She warns that employers on the receiving end of poor management will ultimately vote with their feet. According to recruiter Hays, a third of accounting and finance professionals say they plan to look for a new job in 2021. 

Before COVID, there was already a move towards flatter management structures, Jones says. “Millennials won’t accept more traditional and hierarchical management – they have things to say.”

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