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Gartner on the Next Generation of Managers

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According to Gartner, only 30% of the American workforce is engaged at work, and the top reason why good employees leave their job remains managers. At the Application Strategies Summit, held in November 2018 in Las Vegas, Melanie Lougee, Research VP at Gartner, presented how managers, impacted by digital transformations and by agile new ways of thinking and collaborating, must adopt new leading and coaching models, and why executive leaders should invest in their managers’ experience as much as in their employee experience to retain their talent.

The top three challenges managers face, Lougee mentioned, are the changing rules of engagement between employer and employee, which are influenced by the new role of artificial intelligence and data analytics in people management practices; securing commitment from prospects, which decreased by nearly 50% since 2008; and the shift in employees’ skills and development, as the ability to learn and make empowered and quick decisions is more valued than tenure.

To prepare and develop their workforce better, Lougee suggested that managers need to adapt and need to develop new skills themselves adopted from agile values and practices, such as continuous knowledge sharing through teaching and mentoring, continuous coaching and feedback, and servant-leadership. The most valuable manager skill is the ability to connect their employees to a broad network of internal or external influencers, to encourage them to meet their development potential, which in turn speeds innovation within the organization. This managers’ skill is today directly related to highest level of employees’ achievements, whereas micro-management is known to degrade employees’ performance and moral. Generosity and selfless servant-leadership skills are at the core of the management of the future.

According to Lougee, for managers to flourish, modern executive leaders need to accompany them in this journey and ensure that their experience at work is prioritized as much as the experience of their employees. Among techniques and practices leaders can deploy to support their managers and to set them up for success, are to first assess their desire and proclivity for servant leadership, then provide them with organized channels, such as social networks, to share ideas and feedback and feel heard and valued.

These views about the future of management confirm trends previously shared by various analysts. Jason Lau, as an example, offered, in "2018: The Year of the Middle Manager", the idea that leaders will start investing in the evolution of their middle managers because their engagement will contribute to modelling organizations’ innovation and proposed to baptize these managers "innovation mentors" or "innovation connectors" because he foresaw that one of their main responsibilities will be to connect their employees and help them develop innovation network across departments. Lau suggested that managers should encourage their employees to question the status quo and to continuously test any assumption and learn from the result.

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