Canadian Underwriter

Adapting management styles for the post-COVID workplace

April 28, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

Illustration of a boss leaning in to a group of employees.

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Managers must develop different management skills for the post-COVID world, say panellists at the Insurance Institute of Canada’s Pivot with Purpose webinar. 

As many organizations begin their transition to a hybrid work model, companies have a responsibility to adapt their work environment to accommodate the needs of employees, suggests one panellist.  

“There’s a corporate social responsibility for employers now to accommodate and design the work environment that works for each employee as opposed to a one-size fits all,” says Trevor Buttrum, director of operations at TalentEgg. “One hundred per cent remote and 100% in-office are what we’ve experienced. And now we’re coming to this hybrid model where individuals have an opportunity to choose.’

The hybrid environment is going to require the industry to be thoughtful and intentional in the design. “And the management skills that are required are very, very different,” Buttrum says, crediting his thoughts to HR expert Lisa Taylor. “It comes back to being that thoughtful leader, and being that thoughtful employee as well, in terms of how to ensure that you and your colleagues have as rich an experience as possible.”   

Stephen Stewart, president and CEO of Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting Ltd., finds managers in the hybrid office will need to be nuanced in how they manage people.  

“You have to sort of tailor your approach to the individuals and to the employees,” he says. “And it requires a completely different skill set than the manager sitting in their office with their open-door policy.”  

For his part, Stewart says his approach is to be as flexible as possible.  

“Traditional managers are struggling with trust issues,” he says. “They don’t see their employees all the time. They don’t know exactly what they’re doing at every given moment. If you hire the right people, trust shouldn’t be an issue.” 

Naomi Khan, senior vice president and human resources leader for Canada at Marsh McLennan, notes some employees have been re-evaluating their career options amid the Great Resignation — or, as she terms it, “The Reawakening.” But Stewart adds managers may be a part of the Reawakening, too.  

“It’s the Great Awakening of older management styles to the fact that people need to be treated as individuals; they need to be respected; they need to have their individual needs met by their company or they’ll just leave,” he says.  

Thomas Wright, vice president of specialty risk at Westland Insurance, says the new work model provides an opportunity for “self-reflection.”  

“Everything that’s going on was really an opportunity for us to take a minute and look ourselves in the mirror, look at our practices in the mirror and say, ‘What are our retention strategies? How are we going about this?’ and revisit everything. It’s no longer so cut and dry.”  

He mentions reflecting on benefits beyond salary, as well. “What are we doing outside of that? Outside of just the salary compensation? [Are we looking at the] work-life balance the perks outside of it? And really looking at everything as a whole?” 


Feature image by Dolmatov