Articles, leader, management, manager, skills, 12.08.2021

Flexible manager

5 min.

Elastyczny manager, cechy dobrego managera,

Looking at the experiences of the past year, but also at the ongoing processes of digitization, globalization, and digital and process transformation – being a manager is becoming increasingly difficult and more demanding.

The competencies expected from candidates in the job market have changed. In the past, the leading requirements were related to experience, knowledge of team management methods, and the ability to enforce the appropriate efficiency and quality of subordinates’ work. Of course, these competencies still have their value, but the new reality makes them no longer sufficient.

Desirable competences

The hybrid or remote work mode, which will likely remain with us in some form – whether systemic or specified by the number of days for home office – will require managers to handle both teams, some of which will be in the office, and others working remotely. Today, we can already observe trends that indicate not only various teams but even individuals have their preferences. In a job market that is increasingly becoming an employee’s market, there is no escaping the need for an individualized approach to both mentioned groups of employees. It will undoubtedly require skill in adapting management style to such a mixed mode of work. Managers will need flexibility, primarily in both team collaboration and the use of tools to monitor employees’ work.

Another area requiring flexibility will be tools. In a world of increasingly online relationships, the technological efficiency of managers is crucial on many levels. Proficiency in working with systems, as well as enforcing it from subordinates, can impact various aspects of department functioning and, consequently, the organization. We must get accustomed to the reality that we all work in technological companies. Moreover, automation and digitization of processes not only do not slow down but encompass almost all spheres of business operations. There is no comparison to the speed of technological changes and the necessity to adapt to their implementation in the history of economics. This makes variability inherent in the work of every employee, especially managers.

Alongside technological competencies, an individual and supportive approach to employees is equally important. The past year of the pandemic has brought our professional lives into our homes. Not only organizations are faced with the challenge of how to reward or motivate employees working outside the office, but managers themselves will have to pass this test. How to support individuals not seen every day or seen only sporadically, while maintaining a balance of means and tools for those who will be in the office? In many cases, amid economic uncertainties and concerns about the effects of lockdowns, employees expected support, not only emotionally but also understanding their fears and anxieties. And they still expect their boss to understand them, being able to approach them individually – thus, once again, flexibility becomes the guiding theme.

Who will meet expectations?

How to find managers with all these qualities? There is no golden recipe. These traits can be exhibited by individuals working in both formalized organizations and agile, light cultures. The past year has made it more common to work in smaller teams than in corporations. Similarly, in the financial market, there are no places untouched by revolutionary changes – whether related to market consolidation or digitization and automation of processes. And the year 2020 became a test for everyone without exception. So, how to determine who meets the expectations of future competencies?

Tools used by personal consulting firms and internal HR departments, increasingly leveraging technological improvements, allow the assessment of desired competencies. The primary tool is a biographical and competency interview, where candidates’ behavior in situations requiring flexibility is examined, as well as how they cope with changes in organizations and adapt their working methods to a variable reality.

Checking candidate references is also standard – ideally, when there is a chance to discuss how they functioned in previous workplaces in conversations with supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates. In these discussions, competencies crucial for the organization are examined. An ideal tool that gives candidates a chance to practically showcase their competencies is the use of an assessment center. In simulated scenarios and while performing specific tasks, it is easiest and most accurately to assess their way of working and collaboration with teams and cooperating departments.

How to tempt a candidate?

However, to make such an assessment, managers must be willing to change jobs. In the current reality, when organizations strive to protect their resources, strengthen structures not only to make up for the previous year but also to build a competitive advantage, persuading valued and battle-tested individuals is very difficult at every organizational level. For managers to engage in discussions, they must see the added value for themselves early in the conversations. Each such change should be associated with a development perspective – a promotion, greater responsibility, or a salary increase. Even then, managers carefully calculate the risk of changing jobs. They are aware of the need to build their position in a new organization, establish relationships with the team, enter an environment that is unfamiliar, and, given the uncertainty associated with concerns about the pandemic situation, the prospective employer must have hidden aces up their sleeve.

In the case of technological roles, these often involve modern technologies that provide an opportunity for improvement. For roles more related to working with teams, flexibility in choosing work methods is a key attraction. Sometimes, the magnet can be a boss who is either an authority in the industry or with whom there is proverbial chemistry. For many managers, it is essential to demonstrate a long-term perspective, such as development opportunities at the international level. It happens that the work mode is very important for managers – some prefer to have the team in the office, others favor remote work, while some find a hybrid model ideal. Of course, the organizational framework is always set by the company, but if work standards have not yet been established or are already causing opposition in the current workplace, this is an advantage and an opportunity for change. However, due to the ongoing hybrid or remote work mode in many places, negative motivation is less effective, at least for now. It seems that job security and the position built in the current company are strong factors limiting the desire for change.

So, how to persuade managers to change? Perhaps the most important thing is to find out what motivates the candidate to change or what can stimulate this motivation. Examining factors that could lead a manager to decide to change is crucial to prevent the emergence and acceptance of counteroffers from the current employer – which has recently become a plague in recruitment processes. Everyone is trying to protect their resources, and good managers are the most valuable resource. Therefore, organizations should also demonstrate flexibility and an individual approach to each manager they want to attract, provided they do not offer dream proposals.

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