The changing face of management

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A new survey reveals that workers want different things than their parents’ generation

In the not-too-distant past, a well-recognised pinnacle of a professional career was a corner office and a managerial position. But today’s workforce has different ideas of success, as a recent survey by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows, and a very different idea of what employee reward means in 2020.

In it, only one in 10 nonmanagers aspires to become a manager, and 81% of those already in a managerial role report feeling “more overworked, more stressed, and less supported than they did just a few years ago”. With statistics like these, it’s fair to say that management is in crisis.

The survey reveals still more interesting results. Fully 17% of nonmanagers, having seen the pressures piled on their bosses, would prefer to sidestep the traditional path when it comes to promotion season and swap a managerial role for a position based on their expertise – with no managerial responsibilities.

Managers themselves, who enjoy the collaborative and team-building parts of their jobs, nevertheless resent having to carry out strategies they disagree with – something Sajid Javid, until recently the former UK Chancellor, would no doubt agree with. In fact, what managers are really after is “more control over their workload, and greater recognition from their supervisors”.

Fortunately, the growing trend for a more agile way of working chimes with the bugbears of the 5,000 employees who were interviewed for this survey. Inspired by the co-operative and empowering nature of startup culture, agile working places a great emphasis on cross-functional and self-managed teams who operate in separate units – often in coworking spaces provided by the likes of Regus.

“In a world of increasing speed and uncertainty, the days of top-down, trickle-down decision-making are coming to an end,” said Vinciane Beauchene, a managing director and partner at BCG. “Agile is a promising alternative that can improve cooperation, employee engagement, and innovation,” he added.

It’s clear that a sense of autonomy and employee recognition are key drivers for today’s workers, and that companies will have to realign traditional ways of rewarding exceptional employees if they want to attract the best. Whether that’s fewer promotions in favour of more collaboration (and less oversight) is something that each company can decide on for itself – but the tools are there to help them.

From the cloud-computing capabilities and increasingly sophisticated software that’s heralded the Fourth Industrial Revolution and allowed employees to work from almost anywhere, to the coworking model that’s springing up not just in cities but suburbs too, one thing’s for certain: the new promotion trend for self-government is here to stay.

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