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ATD Blog

How the Pandemic Is Reshaping Manager Development

Friday, February 19, 2021

Times of disruption also bring opportunities for rapid change. We’ve seen this in the past year: Changes that could take years or decades become possible in the immediate term because the status quo has been altered.

Manager development efforts within organizations are one example of this. The pandemic has created a rare moment when leaders in business and learning and development are re-evaluating which components to continue in their manager development efforts with the rapid online pivot. They are also revisiting the bigger question of how to define success as they see firsthand which management approaches are effective during the current work-from-home environment.

In September 2020 Varna Group surveyed learning and development professionals to understand what manager development looks like in organizations and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the three main takeaways that we shared in our ATD webcast.

Most manager development will continue online in 2021

Our survey asked what percentage of manager development efforts are occurring across in-person, online synchronous, and online asynchronous channels. It compared activities before and during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic drove all manager development efforts online in 2020. We polled attendees during our recent webcast about 2021 plans. Our findings of Varna Group’s original survey and webcast poll are below.
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The live poll reveals the surge of online synchronous delivery that occurred in 2020 will continue into 2021, with hope to begin reintroducing some in-person delivery later in the year.


Coaching is most prioritized in today’s manager development

Another question we asked delved into the focus of manager development efforts. Survey results are provided below. Of the 11 categories provided, the blue bars represent elements included in current manager development efforts, while the red bars represent which elements were most focused on.


Coaching ranked highest, both for the topic most often included in manager development efforts and as the most central element for manager development efforts.

Now more than ever, the psychology of motivation is the key to managerial success

Across Q2 and Q3 2020, Gartner and the NeuroLeadership Institute researched what management practices yielded the highest engagement and performance from employees during these turbulent times. The findings of both studies discovered the same truth: Managers and organizations that succeeded in getting the best from their people were aligning their efforts to tap into their people’s intrinsic motivators.

Companies that put the psychology of motivation—specifically how to tap intrinsic motivation—as the organizing principle of their manager development efforts will thrive as they unleash the full potential of their people.

About the Author

Tony Anticole is founder and principal of Varna Group. His fascination with manager effectiveness began after the 2008 financial crisis, when across a three-year period he witnessed four different managers lead the same group of people and achieve four different outcomes.

He brings more than 20 years of experience in the professional services and education space. Tony’s career has included revenue and operations roles of increasing levels of responsibility, giving him a broad perspective on how an enterprise operates, grows, and thrives.

He holds an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration and a BS in finance with a minor in speech communication from the Penn State Smeal College of Business.

1 Comment
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Very interesting read and useful for Management Development during and Post COVID times.
Thank you for the kind words, Sharon!
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