Do you think AI will reduce the need for managers? Think again. Efficiency will increase in many ways in the next phase of work, says Bryan Hancock, global leader of McKinsey’s talent management practice, but the need for expert, empathetic human oversight will only increase.

Hancock explains why managers will play a critical role in building AI-powered organizations and ensuring that they thrive. In this episode, he shares why organizations must invest in their managers, and then let those managers invest the time that AI saves them into better supporting their teams.

Three big takeaways from the conversation:

  1. He believes that AI offers an opportunity to completely reimagine the management layer of your organization. “Imagine better ways of doing those parts of the job that are less focused on people management,” he says. “All of a sudden, we’ve created more capacity to lead. But we’ve also significantly changed the role. The way we think about managers is going to change and evolve. Let’s double down on the most important things that managers do, and that’s manage people.”

  2. Hancock rejects the caricatures of bosses that we see in popular culture. He wants to change our assumptions and convince leaders that their middle managers are the key to organizational transformation. “No one dreamed of being the person who has to say, ‘Hey, I want to make sure that you’ve got the four correct forms filled out in the exact right way.’ I think we want to flip the script on this notion of middle managers being the enforcers of bureaucracy to them being the victims of bureaucracy. We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we need to invest in making sure that managers have the skills and abilities to make that time at work better for everyone.”

  3. He observes that managers are more valuable than ever, especially when they aren’t forced to waste most of their day on the sort of busy work that takes so many of us away from more vital tasks. “Managers that actually spend time managing people, are in the top quartile of management practices, the performance of their companies is better, and employees at those companies feel better as well. We really see managers as this key layer in an organization that drives performance, employee satisfaction, and wellbeing.

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Here’s a transcript of the conversation.

MOLLY WOOD: This is WorkLab, the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Molly Wood. On WorkLab we hear from experts about the future of work, from how to use AI effectively to what it takes to thrive in our new world of work.