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“Business as usual” has taken on a new meaning in the fast-moving dynamics of the modern workplace. Digital technology now equips companies of all sizes with the means to continue operations in a remote or hybrid set-up while allowing colleagues to efficiently collaborate, have more time for personal growth, and  avoid the stress of a daily commute.

Much like the traditional or physical workplace, it is crucial to maintain internal communications and employee engagement for distributed teams. More so if you are a company like Entain, a fast-growing global sports betting, gaming, and interactive entertainment group that employs over 24,000 people in more than 20 countries working across multiple brands. The decision to replace their existing employee intranet platform and go digital-first resulted in the Entain.me employee experience platform, which is built around the idea of microservices. 

The LiveTiles platform now allows for the integration not only of Microsoft 365, Yammer, and Teams—each essential to the company’s operations—but other features like a connection to ServiceNow helpdesk and HR services.

Unique Challenges of the Digital Workplace

While having the right tools and systems are important, management may come across unique challenges in the digital workplace, such as

  • Colleagues taking time to adapt to the new work culture
  • New tools or workflows with steep learning curves that may affect productivity
  • Digital etiquette problems arising from teams working in different time zones, such as sending emails after office hours or being expected to reply right away
  • People unable to disengage from work and experiencing burnout 

To address these concerns, we need digital workplace leaders capable of recreating the strong social connections that face-to-face interaction does. However, as mentioned by bestselling author Simon Sinek during his Let’s Connect Event with LiveTiles, people must realize that it requires hard work to create meaningful human connections virtually

Five key leadership skills for digital workplace managers

To help managers better adapt to the demands of today’s workplace, Harvard Business School Online identifies these key leadership skills:

1 Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s emotional state and that of others. Leaders with high EI are able to promote an open and inclusive culture where people are not afraid of making mistakes and are motivated to bring their whole selves to work.

They are also high on empathy and genuine care, asking “How are you?” with keen interest to get a pulse and identify how they can support their people. EI is a key skill that influences your ability to communicate, motivate others, delegate tasks, and remain flexible under pressure.

2 Communication. Email, instant messaging, social media and the like have overtaken face-to-face interaction in the remote work setup. While digital tools give a sense of community, people can easily feel ignored and/or misunderstood.

Leaders need to know the best communication platform to use and adapt their communication styles for different audiences and situations. In addition, they must know how to listen actively, be open and transparent, and ask questions that spark genuine discussion. They must be especially mindful of their tone of voice and body language—including during video calls.

3 Motivation. Rather than telling others what to do or micromanaging tasks, good leaders empower employees to do what they were hired for. This involves creating a culture of trust, which is built by giving positive feedback in those moments between meetings.

Managers should use whatever digital tools at their disposal to show empathy and support open communication within the team. On top of that, stay purpose-driven and keep an eye out for employee growth opportunities. This strategy will improve overall team performance and also free up time for essential leadership tasks.

4 Self-awareness. Honest reflection and self-assessment can help leaders gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, which can sometimes be amplified in a digital work setup. Being self-aware will allow them to recognize opportunities and nip potential problems in the bud. 

Seek honest feedback and act on these to realize your full leadership potential. Don’t be afraid to ask for training that will better equip you for your tasks.

5 Resilience. When managing a remote team, possibly across different time zones, things may not always go according to plan. Thus leaders must learn to stay flexible and resilient under pressure, knowing how to quickly adapt to change and guide their team to new courses of action. It also pays to see the opportunities in the situation, as having a wide network will allow you to tap more resources.

Strategies to build resilience continuously striving to learn and improve yourself and your team, retaining your sense of purpose, and developing strong relationships with friends, colleagues, and mentors that you can rely upon when the need arises.

In the digital age, leaders need to inspire, engage and lead with optimism. Today’s work environment may be dynamic and unpredictable, but armed with these skills managers can develop a genuinely humane brand of leadership, create a strong workplace culture, and thrive in their roles as motivators, mentors, and visionaries.