Tech Can Help You Become A Better Manager. Here’s How.
Funnily enough, the people that need these technologies the most are the ones most likely to ignore them.
With the pandemic making remote work the de facto working standard for today’s teams, it’s understandable that many managers are struggling. Anyone that has never worked from home and suddenly has to start to organize, monitor, and supervise a team would be in the same position. That’s because remote management isn’t quite the same as on-site management, something you can bitterly find out yourself by trying to apply the same techniques.
That means that managers have to modify their approach to how they handle their talent and develop new methods to understand and motivate people. Fortunately, there’s tech to have your back and help you. Beyond the obvious tech tools needed for remote work (from Slack and Zoom to Jira and email), there are other technology solutions that can help you become not just a better remote manager but a better manager overall.
I know so because I’ve been managing remote teams at BairesDev for years now. As an outsourcing software development services provider, we had to come up with a new approach to management years ago and found our greatest ally to do so in technology. With our industry pushing us to be more innovative with each passing day, we know that our current tech-led processes will have to evolve organically. That’s why we’re always looking for ways to improve our team management and why we’re already eyeing these tech-driven management trends.
Feedback has always been a crucial part of managing teams. Talking openly with team members about performance, behaviors, potential, and issues can be a real productivity booster. According to Gallup, when managers provide weekly (vs. annual) feedback, team members are “5.2x more likely to strongly agree that they receive meaningful feedback” than employees who receive annual feedback.
Those employees are also “3.2x more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work.” That comes to show the importance of frequent feedback, something that most managers acknowledge. Yet, even when that’s common knowledge, Gallup also found that only 20% of U.S. employees have had a meaningful feedback meeting with their manager over the last six months.
The shift to remote work surely deepened that trend, which is why we all should be looking to technology to remediate this. There are plenty of things you can do with tech to improve the feedback process but the most interesting one is AI-driven feedback. This basically implies artificial intelligence algorithms that gather information about the employee’s work and provide real-time feedback on what they do.
This can be done through a chatbot or virtual assistant that tracks what your team members say, write, and do at work, assesses the data, and provides relevant and useful suggestions to improve work. Naturally, this can be perceived as an invasive tool that needs the explicit consent of your employees before you roll it out. But if you explain the benefits for your employees and make sure that data collection is limited exclusively to task-related information, you could deploy a highly sophisticated system that leverages the potential of AI.
Natural Language Processing Emotional Recognition
It might sound like science fiction, but NLP is already mature enough to detect the team members’ moods, motivation levels, and emotions. By analyzing both the words used by them and the attributes on their voices, NLP algorithms can detect people that are feeling anxious, stressed, or burned out. This can trigger alarms in a manager’s dashboard, who can promptly address the issues by providing quick support to the affected employees.
Though NLP-based solutions are already available across many industries, they are mostly rule-based and classic-learning based approaches. That means that the AI behind them has to be guided and adjusted by a human, which limits its impact (as you need to spend quite some time training the AI to recognize emotional signals that you need to identify yourself, first). That’s why the advancements in deep learning are so promising: they bring a more layered approach that can dramatically increase the precision and broaden the range of the diagnoses to include more subtleties.
That doesn’t mean that more traditional approaches aren’t worth looking into. In fact, you should also take them into account, as recent research suggests that hybrid approaches outperform other kinds of approaches. In other words, combining different NLP solutions into one powerful emotion recognition platform can aid you in better monitoring the mental well-being of your team. In the end, you’ll get the opportunity to tackle the problem sooner, increasing the happiness of your team.
The dissatisfaction with meetings isn’t something new. The saying “this meeting could have been an email” has been going around for years and it’s just one of the many signals of people’s discontent with meetings. But it isn’t just the pointlessness of some meetings that create such dissatisfaction — there’s also the meeting dynamics themselves that favor extroverted people and a few that are interested in dominating the conversation (usually men)
The annoyance doesn’t just stay in the “real world” — online meetings suffer from the same disengagement (Zoom fatigue, anyone?). Yet, meetings are important for teamwork, especially with remote teams. That’s why managers need to keep an eye on these issues while also taking steps to mitigate their impact. That’s precisely where technology can help via meeting analytics.
As you can surely gather from the name, meeting analytics tools gather information in real-time (most of the time, using the technologies we’ve described in point 2) to assess many aspects of the interaction. Thus, an analytical platform can provide managers with seemingly menial data (such as starting and ending times of meetings) to highly complex insights (such as tracking overall and individual engagement).
The resulting report can be used in two ways. An immediate way to get value out of these tools is to integrate a real-time dashboard that reflects the level of engagement. Thus, you can chime in the conversation and invite to participate those that are most disengaged. And then you can have after-meeting reports that allow you to better understand the meeting engagement fluctuations, which you can analyze to better organize future meetings.
Realizing the Power of Technology for Management
When talking about team management, many people believe that technology starts and ends with the tools they already know, from video conferencing software to project management platforms. Yet, there are cutting-edge technologies like the ones described here that can take any manager to the next level.
There’s a caveat, though. Experience shows that managers tend to overrate their own performance, especially those that are underperforming. Thus, many of them believe they don’t need to change how they do things, simply because they perceive their work as exemplary. Funnily enough, the people that need these technologies the most are the ones most likely to ignore them. The caveat, then, is that you have to come to the realization that technology is constantly evolving, so you have to move along with it.
One final thought. The technology in and by itself won’t turn a bad manager into a good one. Tech is just a tool that shines the most in the hands of those that know how to wield it. So, becoming a better manager is, first and foremost, understanding your limitations and developing the necessary skills to improve. Then, and only then, will these technologies make a real difference.