We all know that the work landscape is changing. The jobs that will be in demand are shifting as more are automated by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robots. Teams are becoming more disparate and globalization has added new collaboration challenges. At the same time, more millennials are taking on management roles, and even our work spaces will undergo changes between now and 2025.
“Change will be happening so quickly that 50% of the occupations that exist today will not exist 10 years from now. So we’re going to be living in an environment that is extremely adaptable and changing all the time,” says Liz Bentley, the founder of Liz Bentley Associates, a leadership development consulting firm.
Amid all of this flux, managers are going to need new skills, too. The staid, hierarchical structures of the past aren’t going to work, she says. So as you plan your future managerial career, be sure to keep these skills at the forefront.
Technology Management Skills
Technology is going to “grow alongside of us,” says Bentley, and there will be no job that is immune from its effects. Of course, it won’t be a straight line from where we are now to machine learning and robots taking over the workplace, but technology will become an ever-present factor in the workplace. That will create new challenges, conflicts, and opportunities related to skill building, workplace roles, data management, privacy, and others. Managers will need to understand technology enough to keep abreast of and anticipate emerging issues.
Some technological developments will work, some won’t, and some will evolve, she says. But the constant is that managers will need to not only be comfortable with embracing new technology, but they’ll also have to be adept at managing the changing relationship between people and emerging tech.
Outcentric Leadership Skills
Effective managers and leaders are going to need to be less egocentric, Bentley says. “I’m the leader and you will listen to me,” approaches aren’t going to work in a tight labor market made up primarily of millennials. Bentley says managers will need to be more “outcentric,” focusing on developing the people and teams around them to be active and valued contributors. The best managers will look at the overarching need, and then build and develop a team to meet that need—with input from the team—instead of dictating what the team needs.
Effective managers are going to have to be as good at evaluating candidates and employees for soft skills as they are for technical skills, says Rita Santelli, CEO of innovation consulting firm Savvy, and an adjunct faculty member teaching strategic and innovative leadership at Georgetown University.
The best employees are going to have strong critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills as the pace of the workplace continues to accelerate. Managers are going to have to be both inherently able to spot those abilities in others, and also stay abreast of emerging tools and assessments that more accurately evaluate them in candidates and developing employees.
Companies will adopt more elements of Results-Only Work Environments (ROWEs), says Jennifer Currence, president of OnCore Management Solutions, a performance solutions consulting company. This HR management strategy, created by workplace consultants Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, focuses on autonomy and accountability.
In other words, effective managers will create environments that focus less on where and how people work, but which measure success based on results and output, she says. The use of contractors will continue to rise, and managers will need to think differently about how they assemble the skills necessary to meet their objectives. Focus will need to shift away from process, except in terms of how to optimize it for better results, she says.
“As we shift to a workforce that is 100% autonomous and 100% accountable, performance is based on the results they create, not the hours they work. As we see more workplaces like this and more flexibility in the workplace, managers are really going to have to focus more on the communication aspects and relationship management,” she says.
As teams become more disparate with contractors, consultants, remote employees, and office-based employees working together, managers are going to need to learn how to build culture in nontraditional environments, Santelli says. In addition, teams will increasingly become more diverse, Bentley adds. Generation Z will be entering the workforce, while baby boomers work until well past traditional retirement age. Globalization will create more cross-border teams. Shifting demographics will make team diversity essential to capitalize on changes in the market, she says. Leaders are going to need to be sensitive to cultural differences.
Sometimes, leaders confuse collaboration with consensus and harmony, which can slow teams’ progress and make them less effective, Santelli says. Especially as change—technological, demographic, and other types of change—hit workplaces and markets, being able to challenge the status quo will be the difference between exceptional and mediocre managers, she says.
“Being able to lead collaborative teams with the appropriate level of tension and constructive debate that will lead to innovative ideas and timely results that can get to market at the time when consumers are looking for solutions: That’s a critical skill for future managers,” she says.
Being effective at building cultures in nontraditional teams will require new levels of transparency and communication, Currence adds. This has traditionally been hard for managers to navigate. “They’re in this place where they feel like, ‘Okay, they have to protect the company, and we have to grow our employees and serve them. Where’s the line, and which side of the line am I on?’ A lot of times they’re straddling the line, and they don’t know what to be transparent about because they’re giving away company secrets,” she says.
But secrets and duplicity aren’t going to fly in a leaky world that increasingly reveals everything from salary to work practices to private memos. For disparate teams to work, they need managers they can trust—even when they can’t be face-to-face, she says. Managers will need to be able to foster that trust to build cultures that retain good team members.
Emotional intelligence has gotten a fair amount of attention lately, but it will only become more important as the workplace changes over the next eight to 10 years. “If IQ is a measure of your intelligence quotient, EQ is a measure of your emotional intelligence. A high EQ is synonymous with being self-aware, of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, or seeking the assistance of colleagues and mentors to help you find them, which in turn allows you to identify areas to improve,” says Craig Dalziel, senior manager with technology recruitment firm FRG Technology Consulting.
People with high EQ tend to have greater empathy, allowing managers to gain greater perspective and evaluate what isn’t working within their teams, because they can see the situation from others’ point of view, he says. “As more and more millennials and gen Z’ers enter the workplace, this is the sort of workplace they are imagining, and adapting now to meet that demand in 10 years’ time will not only create a better environment today, but it will also mean the management culture is ahead of the curve,” he says.