7 ways leaders can rise to the challenge of today's employees

In the future of work, managers and company leaders need to up their game

7 ways leaders can rise to the challenge of today's employees

Technology is changing the way workplaces operate in many areas, and in the past, they’ve tended to be more static. People worked in the same place, under the eye of a supervisor, doing the same sorts of things, and changed jobs less frequently.

But now, people work remotely; they are supported in new ways by technology and they often work in cross-functional teams in different locations. The world of work is changing; people expect to move roles and develop new skills. Employees are stepping up in this environment, taking more responsibility for delivering company goals, being more autonomous and increasingly helping to lead their organizations.

Managers and company leaders need to up their game too. I think the gloomy predictions that are often made of a future where workers are replaced by robots might be a bit dated - in fact, it might be more likely that some of the managers will no longer be needed. The people on the ground in customer-facing roles will be more important than ever.

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Instead, it will be unhelpful bosses – the ones who micromanage, don’t share information, make important decisions without consultation and look for someone else to blame whenever something goes wrong – whose coats will be on shaky pegs.

Here are seven tips for managers who want to up their game to the level of their best employees:

1. Don’t create HiPPOs
A HiPPO is a “highly-paid person’s opinion.” Some organizations are dominated by these. It can be dangerous for people lower down the hierarchy to confront a “HiPPO” or to find themselves in its path. But a bunch of charging “HiPPOs” can also drag the business off course pretty quickly. These are not the best way to run any organization.

Managers who want to add value are more interested in gathering information from the people on the ground. Every plan, no matter how well-laid, alters when it meets reality and in an organization where the customer-facing employees voices are silenced by “HiPPOs,” that divergence will likely not be noticed until it is too late to do anything about it.

2. Share the vision
What is the vision for the organization? Everyone should understand the company’s goals and what part they play in reaching them. These objectives shouldn’t be expressed in purely monetary terms - this is about creating a shared mission and making everyone feel part of the team. The mission should be expressed in terms of delivering outcomes for customers or clients.

When people in different roles understand what the outcome is that they are working towards, then they can own this and take responsibility for delivering against it.  Of course, they also have to agree on what is expected of them and what ‘done’ looks like.

3. Keep everyone in the loop
Ensuring transparency of information is key to supporting self-managing teams. There are many different kinds of collaborative workplace technology available today which make it possible to share live, real-time information with everyone across the organization.

It is important that the information which is gathered for sharing is relevant and useful and there isn’t an overgrowth of data-collection requirements. But having the right information at the fingertips of people at every level means they are in a much better position to contribute effectively.

It also means employees can also more readily see and understand the value of their own contribution. That is fundamentally more engaging.

4. Share decision-making authority across the organization
Organizations where all the decisions are made by the people at the top, struggle to grow effectively. Bottlenecks are created and information gathered on the ground has to be pushed upwards before commands are relayed back down. It’s slow, bureaucratic and limiting.

Highly-skilled employees who are in customer-facing roles are generally most likely to understand the context of a specific situation. Not only that, but they are also the main source of fresh ideas and innovations that will drive real value for customers.

5. Don’t have a blame culture
In a blame culture, people fear taking decisions because when one is made that later turns out to be wrong, somebody will be singled out as “the culprit.” It is not helpful to set targets and then complain and criticize everyone who misses them.

It is much more effective to have a team culture where people deal with errors that arise and work together to avoid making the same mistakes again. The team can also try to continuously improve the decision-making process. If you have a good decision-making process, over time you will get more right than wrong.

6. Look for trends
Improving business performance involves measuring a range of metrics around things like the value that is being created for customers and the competitiveness of what the company offers. Most managers have a range of key performance indicators or KPIs that they study.

But it is important not to put too much importance on single points of data. Looking for trends enables managers to look ahead to where the market is headed and to help steer the company in the right direction.

7. Encourage people to develop and grow
Managers who add value encourage people in their teams to develop themselves, their skills and talents with appropriate training and experience. They should add a line to their resume each year and focus their energy on external, customer-facing work rather than making life easier for their boss.

This is good for both the business and the employees, and the managers know that if they don’t continue to offer a great working environment, these highly-skilled people may go elsewhere.

Mark Robinson is co-founder of workplace automation software company Kimble Applications

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