Antonio Neri is the President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. While it is a historic name in the business, it is a company that in no way has been staid and unchanging. Reflecting on the impact of the pandemic while at the 2021 Fortune Global Forum, Neri asserted, “The role of the manager has changed forever.”

His first case in point was that whenever an employee brought up working conditions, options for work-from-home, flexible hours, or any other sort of issue, the typical response people would get was “that’s an HR issue.” Said more bluntly, “I’m not handling that, and good luck.” Neri is clear that, at least for HPE, that approach is not going to work anymore. He says managers need to have a whole raft of skill sets to be able to address this, and those skill sets are not what HPE (and most other companies) are training people in.

Neri reminded people that we all need to look at different ways of working as we all get older. Like in so much of life, we get more stuck in our preferences for how we work, or, if nothing else, the patterns of our work like the schedule, standing meetings, templates for proposals, and the multitude of social mores that help make up a company’s culture. As HPE builds a new headquarters in Houston, Neri points out that those designing how work will happen will need to approach it in a completely different way than they likely would have prior to 2020. The same goes for managers. The new manager will be about charisma and listening skills, as Neri says “it’s often more about what you say than what you hear.”

Neri reflected that as a CEO, your biggest job is succession planning and building for the future. He seemed a bit downcast as he mentioned that, historically, there were always great GM schools for people to be developed, but over time those structures have been lost through the hierarchy. Looking ahead, he realizes that the best place to start is in focusing and holding people accountable. About his own career, he said, “I never took a training program, I just got to work with the best minds. I look for leadership in people and give them an opportunity to step forward. The pandemic made us all more resilient,” and going forward we need to be thoughtful about form follows function, specifically what will help our people and our companies thrive.

Daniel Alegre of Activision supports what Neri said wholeheartedly, it seems. He is clear that supporting people’s mental health is no longer something pushed off to HR. Being a good manager means being aware of the person’s overall wellbeing and working to support it as best as possible. At Activision, Alegre said, management has had to systematically look at all the things that are involved in supporting people, like daycare, personal healthcare, where they want to live, and where they want to work. He said that’s created an imperative about how the executive team needs to position itself to listen to employees’ needs.

He contends that as you bring people into the hybrid system, challenges will emerge to ensure the appropriate level of inclusivity. Alegre says, “we are nothing if our people aren’t happy and aren’t able to build and go ahead with collaborating.” He notes that things have improved in many ways in the new world and environment, so embracing those changes further will be what has companies thrive.

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