4 ways to maximise working-from-home productivity using a humanistic management style approach

One of the necessities of leading the workforce of the future will be moving away from the idea that leadership is connected to hierarchy; that leadership is connected to rank. While a leader does hold a position of authority, it’s time to shift from the concept that an effective leader is a director of productivity, and more closely consider leaders as supporters of productivity. Tomorrow’s leaders won’t control, they will influence with a humanistic management style approach. This distinction is important when considering what is 21st century leadership and how it can best be deployed in the modern workplace. 

Directing someone to be productive doesn’t work. There are clear limitations in what that approach can achieve; an employee can only produce what they’re capable of in that moment. However, when supporting someone as they build on their own talents, their own confidence, and their own abilities, it’s clear to see how a more humanistic management approach can squeeze more value from the workforce.

Cambridge University’s 2017 Sustainability Leadership report defines humanistic management as ‘the capacity of a human community to share its future, and specifically to sustain the significant processes of change required to do so”. 

Shifting to a humanistic management style

A humanistic management style puts people before profit to answer some of the leadership and management challenges emerging in the quickly shifting world of work. It’s an approach that works to build productivity from the very core. It attempts to introduce change at employee level, rather than operational level, to create a stronger, more robust foundation on which employees can develop their own skills and talents. The overarching idea is to create an environment that boosts productivity organically through professional growth.

The fruits of this approach can be significant. Research by Deloitte discovered that leaders who prioritise the workforce experience are statistically more likely to develop a team that’s efficient, innovative, and which helps the business to meet its broader financial targets. 

So how can leaders adopt a more humanistic management approach to boost productivity? Ultimately it's about meeting the fundamental needs of the workforce to give them what they need to be productive. Teams need to know they’re valued. 

1. Turn challenges into opportunities

Skills gaps can be major sticking points in terms of productivity, impacting efficiency and slowing down processes as employees attempt to track down the necessary person or resource for support. This can take even longer in a remote environment. 

To boost productivity, leaders should aim to turn challenges into opportunities; opportunities for further training, coaching, and professional development that close skills gaps, improve self esteem, and future-proof the workforce through knowledge. 

2. Understand there’s no ‘one size fits all’

Everyone has their own preferred methods for boosting productivity. There’s no right or wrong. As a leader - and especially as a humanistic leader – you’ll know that what works for you may not work for your team. Humanistic leaders trust their teams; they give them autonomy, and introduce a degree of flexibility that enables them to design and utilise processes that work for them. To embrace the humanistic management style, leaders value dynamic processes, not rigid ones. 

3. Focus on culture

To be productive, employees need to be happy and satisfied with their working environment. However, while leaders have some level of input over this environment in the workplace, it’s harder when some - or all - of the team are working remotely. 

Building culture in remote teams can be done. It requires a seamless on-site and virtual environment rooted in trust, inclusion, diversity, and accountability. It should be a culture where people’s skills are valued individually, distinct from the organisation. 

4. Prioritise soft skills

Leaders naturally want their teams to perform well. It is easy to fall into the trap of building a team that possesses high-level industry-specific skills and overlooking the more basic ‘soft skills’ that aren’t direct growth drivers. However, soft skills such as empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence aren’t just ‘nice to haves’. These skills help to form value-based connections which support the team to achieve their absolute best. 

The importance of humanistic management

The Founder of the Humanistic Management Network in Switzerland, Dr. Ernst Kimakowitz, believes that “we need to integrate ethical considerations into the management decisions as it will not only encourage a more human approach; it will also help us to build more resilient systems”. Resilience is the secret to success in the workplace of the future.

Shifting to a humanistic management style unlocks this benefit because it’s an approach that supports the growing importance of resilience. Recent times have demonstrated just how rapidly things can change; how tried-and-tested operational processes can, overnight, become obsolete. A humanistic management approach addresses this. 

It aims to build a more resilient business from the ground up, ensuring that, no matter what happens in the future, no matter what happens to critical business processes, the organisation has the core foundations needed to survive, to adapt, and to succeed. 

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