Management challenges: top 3 factors in 2023

Image of a surfer getting caught in a large wave symbolising management challenges.

It’s 2023. In the last three years we’ve seen a pandemic, a complete shift in the way we work, talent shortages, the rise of remote working…The workplace has never looked more different. Managers, working at the front line of teams, have been immersed in these changes more than ever- which has brought it’s own challenges. As 2023 gathers pace, we look at the key management challenges facing todays managers, and the apparent disconnect between expectations and reality.

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The 3 management challenges facing today’s managers

Here are three of the most critical management challenges in 2023:

  1. The way we work has changed.
  2. Managers have more on their plate.
  3. There’s a disconnect between corporate and team member expectations.

1. The way we work has changed

What’s expected

Some things don’t change. The pandemic, and the way we work, hasn’t necessarily changed a manager’s role – employee wellbeing, career discussions, performance conversations and providing feedback still make up a large part of their day-to-day. What has now changed is how they approach these vital parts of their roles.

With employees spending 65% less time in the office compared to before the pandemic, managers are increasingly feeling less in-touch with their employees. Yet workers now rely on their direct manager for 8/10 categories of direct critical information. Whilst struggling to find new ways to communicate, monitor and connect with their remote teams, managers must still:

  • Maintain performance management
  • Keep their teams connected and motivated
  • Maintain engagement across remote teams.

They have been expected to quickly update their tried-and-tested methods, and seamlessly transition their ways of working, simply to stay on top of managing their employees.

The reality

In short, managers today require a whole new set of skills to work in this new landscape. But with little in the way of formal training, how are they coping with the new management challenges they face? The truth is, managers are increasingly feeling a lack of confidence in their ability to lead successful teams. In fact, in a study conducted by HBR, about 40% of the 215 supervisors and managers expressed low self confidence in their ability to manage remote workers effectively.  By contrast, managers who are part of companies who provided practical support or training showed increased signs of self-efficacy. Despite years of experience, everything is new – and they are left feeling out of their depth.

2. Managers have more on their plate

What’s expected

Put simply, managers have more to deal with now. According to Gallup, hybrid work has simply “put more work on a manager’s plate”.

With the changing work environment, new demands from employees, and the rise of remote working, management challenges have increased, yet managers are now more than ever a critical component of an organisation. Not only are they the vital connection between the company and it’s employees, but they are the binder that connects their remote teams together. And as a result managers have more responsibilities than ever.

Culture – 76% of employees say that culture is important to be effective in their job and 60% of hybrid employees say their manager is their most direct connection to company culture.

Soft skills – 84% of HR leaders said it was important for managers to develop soft skills in a hybrid setting. And with a new focus on wellbeing within the workplace, soft skills are even more important.

Engagement – creating engagement and communication is more important than ever in remote teams, where employees may find themselves disconnected to their work.

Flexibility and well-being – post pandemic, there are increased demands surrounding flexibility, mental health and wellbeing within the workplace. A caring, empathetic manager is now a top employee ‘must have’, second only to salary, and 85% of HR leaders at midsize companies agreed that it’s more important now for managers to demonstrate empathy than it was before the pandemic.

Retention and performance – in light of the great resignation and the rise of quiet quitting, retention is more important than ever -“Manager relationships are becoming the make-or-break point for whether employees stay or go.” 

All of this means that, on top of their everyday role, managers today must be inspiring, they must be authentic, they must be flexible, engaging, motivational, wellbeing-focused…. and so much more.  

The reality

The short of it is that managers are burning out – according to Gallup in 2022 hybrid managers experienced the highest levels of burnout, and overall 49% of frontline managers are feeling burned out on a daily basis.

Despite managers presenting a huge opportunity for organisations, there is little training in place to equip managers to cope with these widening responsibilities, as well as the management challenges of today. Managers were found to have the second highest positive impact when they effectively define and communicate the purpose of culture. Meanwhile, according to McKinsey, having good relationships with their managers is the top factor in determining an employees’ job satisfaction – which in turn is the second-most-important determinant of their overall well-being. Yet despite the impact they have, 33% of managers feel out of their depth when supporting their team through mental health issues. An effective approach involves a shared sense of responsibility between organisations and their leaders, but managers find they are often coping with the new workplace challenges alone. So how can managers be effective, improve engagement and contribute to a positive culture, if they themselves are burnt out?

3. There’s a disconnect between corporate and team member expectations

What’s expected

One of the biggest management challenges that we face today is the ‘squeeze’ – managers are receiving pressure from both above and below. The frontline manager is a key intermediary between senior leaders and their employees, but this can often mean having to juggle the expectations of both. They must simultaneously manage higher level demands regarding absenteeism, retention, recruitment and productivity, and manage their employee’s demands in terms of career conversations, feedback, promotions and flexibility and wellbeing. In fact, 59% of managers think they need to be better at managing multiple stakeholder interests than they did a year ago. 

The reality

Without adequate systems or processes in place, managers can be left in a tug of war between both parties, frantically trying to juggle the requirements of both. Pressure from senior leaders and employees, whilst desperately trying to find new ways to connect and drive their teams in the new working environment, can feel like a whirlpool of expectations.

Increasingly managers are feeling there is a disconnect between their employees and the reality. In 2021, Gartner asked 75 HR leaders from companies worldwide how their managers were faring, 68% reported that they were overwhelmed. Nonetheless, only 14% of those companies had taken steps to help alleviate their managers’ burdens and reduced the number of responsibilities on their plate. And with new learning reports calling on managers to “activate their people” it seems that rather than addressing the challenges managers are facing, organisations are keen to add to their responsibilities.

So what’s next for managers?

How do managers cope with these management challenges and the numerous responsibilities placed on them? How do they balance the demands of employers and employees? The simple answer is managers can’t be expected to work alone. “Providing managers with more support, training, communication, and opportunities to rebuild their relationships and networks will be imperative this year,” according to Gallup.  For organisations to adapt and thrive in the new world of work, they must be able to implement change effectively. And that first comes with recognising the central role managers play in implementing this as the link between the company and employees, and secondly by providing them with the correct skills, through training, to manage this.

Want to learn more about today’s management challenges? Check out our Management trends infographic now.

FREE infographic: Management trends in 2023

Get ahead of the curve and learn about the startling trends affecting management.

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