Competencies for Managers 2021

In Challenging Times

2020 will forever be synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic and a severe economic crisis. It injected feelings of fear, uncertainty, and shock into our everyday lives. Above all, it has changed the ways we learn, travel, socialise, and work. COVID-19 has taught us that the business landscape can change overnight. As such, we’ve had to dramatically challenge our existing management competencies, even adapting the way we manage projects and prioritise workflows.

While we cannot predict the 2021 business trends with confidence, we can still find the areas crucial to adapt to the New Normal. In 2021, businesses should focus on strengthening leadership skills and developing competencies for managers.

Young man using a laptop at a table, working from home; management competencies

COVID-19 has severely stretched existing management competencies.

Management Competencies in 2021

The COVID-19 crisis has placed unexpected demands on business leaders. The pandemic is spreading fast, triggering uncertainty. Feelings of lost control, stress, panic, and emotional disturbance have become an everyday part of the workplace in 2021. Consequently, that changes the approach to leadership skills. What leaders need in 2021 is not a detailed, predefined business plan to follow. They need to strengthen their leadership skills to support staff and help the adaptation to the New Normal.

Here are a few competencies for managers to practice in 2021:

1. Demonstrate Empathy

Compassion and emotional intelligence are fundamental leadership skills. Managers need to support their staff and make a positive difference in their lives. That way, they show they care about employees’ personal and professional challenges.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes to understand what they think and feel. Cultivating empathy, especially in stressful situations, creates firm bonds of trust.

The most critical management competencies during COVID-19 are:

  • Being an active listener.
  • Encouraging passive employees to speak up.
  • Leaving bias and judgment behind.
  • Taking a personal interest.

The goal is to show you care not only as a manager but as a person. Connect with your employees and listen to their stories about their family members being sick, the drawbacks of homeschooling, etc.

Furthermore, try to make space for one-on-one meetings. Create an opportunity to ask employees about both private and professional lives. That way, you create psychological safety for your employees and prove their feelings matter.

2. Communicate With Transparency

Inspiring transparency is one of the core competencies for managers in a crisis. That means offering honest, correct, and detailed information about your company’s progress.

Be clear about the things you know or do not know.  Communicate honestly even when you do not have answers to employee questions. As one of the vital leadership skills, transparency should enable two-way communication between employees and management.

Sky in crystal ball in hand

Clear communication is an essential competency for managers in 2021.

However, a lack of transparency in crises may harm employees’ trust. It may raise stakeholders’ suspicions about what their leaders know and how ready they are for the crisis.

Moreover, without transparency in communications, your employees feel underappreciated and doubtful about the managers’ leadership skills.

Sure, communications should not stop once the pandemic is over. It should stay among the top-priority competencies for managers in the long-run. Here are a few ways to boost transparency in the workplace:

  • Prioritise communication, both in-person and via online channels.
  • Invite feedback and make it a two-way process.
  • Track employee performance and make the metrics available to everyone in the team via cloud HR tools.

3. Practice Wellbeing Leadership

Managers in both large and small businesses can agree that the outbreak of COVID-19 has heavily affected employee wellbeing.

Many companies have rapidly shifted to working from home and tried to make workplaces COVID safe. Still, the crisis harms employee health and performance on multiple levels. For example, the fear of job losses and the inability to juggle professional and private lives are just some of the many risks triggering stress and burnout.

One of the main competencies for managers in 2021 is wellbeing management. The goal is to approach the workplace from different standpoints, including physical, psychological, social, cultural, economic, and spiritual.

Encourage Employees to Take Regular Breaks and Time Off

With Zoom, Slack, and similar workplace communication tools, employees are now more available than ever.

While it encourages workplace agility and collaboration, the lack of effective communication is a common issue. Employees often fail to manage time and balance private and professional lives. These problems trigger employee tiredness, dissatisfaction, and, ultimately, burnout.

Yoga at home: relaxation

Give employees the opportunity to relax and prioritise their mental health.

Add Mental Health Services to Your Benefits Plan

COVID-19 has changed the world we know of.

Your employees are experiencing continuous anxiety, stress, and depression. Moreover, they are terrified of what their everyday lives will become, grieving for the way things were in the past. Social distancing, remote work, and isolation do not help either.

The best way to boost your skills, however, is to show compassion and support your employees’ mental wellbeing. Help them channel nervous energy. Provide them with mental health resources and services to help them weather the crisis.

4. Automation Remains One of the Key Competencies for Managers

In 2021, the adoption of a change mindset remains one of the most critical leadership skills. Organisations and managers need to find new opportunities for continuous business growth and understand how and when to act on them.

That is where automation helps.

Over the past few years, we have seen a gradual growth in business automation. Then, the pandemic happened and, consequently, accelerated the adoption of these technologies. Contactless and touchless mechanisms of employee and customer interactions have already become our New Normal.

Automation; project management competencies.

Automation will continue to advance cross-domain workflows and enhance existing project management competencies.

Automated business operations are meant for crisis times. It allows businesses to streamline many repetitive and routine tasks that once required human-to-human contact. For managers, choosing to invest in automated tools with the least complexity is not obligatory anymore. It is a necessity.

5. The Rise of Hyper-Automation

The pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down. Given that, 2021 will be the year of hyper-automation and orchestration of cross-domain workflows enhancing existing project management competencies.

Automation makes your business more efficient. It uses software to do tasks instead of humans. In addition, orchestration takes the automation process to the next level by helping you centralise your automated tools and workflows, in turn, enhancing project management competencies.

One such example is inventory management. That is one of the most time-consuming tasks, prone to human error. Leaders need to find processes that can be automated. The goal is to reduce errors and operating costs in ever-changing work environments.

For example, the implementation of MRP software lets you synchronise the entire manufacturing inventory management system. These tools allow you to centralise many processes. Some of them are sales, CRM, manufacturing, inventory management, orders, and POS (point of sales) under a single platform.

Most importantly, MRP solutions integrate with many third-party software solutions, including shippers, e-commerce platforms, accounting tools, and payment gateways. Consequently, you increase the transparency of your business operations and manufacturing processes.

Over to You

The COVID-19 pandemic keeps stretching management competencies and testing business leaders in 2021. Moreover, the prolonged uncertainty and stress can harm workplace morale and performance.

That is why you should focus on transparency, empathy, and collaboration as key leadership skills in 2021.

Prepare to invest in new technologies, such as business automation. That way, you streamline many dull business operations and the transition to the New Normal faster and more successful.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted competencies for managers in your organisation? Have you embraced automation to enhance existing project management competencies? What leadership skills will you focus on in 2021? Please, share your experiences with us!


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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