Management: Past, Present and Future

Trends In Management Can Be Both Good And Bad.

By Steve Schumacher

For the past 30 years, I have coached managers in the mining industry all over North America. From the very beginning of my career, I have noticed certain trends among people that supervise others. Some of those early trends have diminished or ended completely, others have begun, while some have started becoming evident. When it comes to helping others be productive and motivated, managers have always had a tremendous influence, and that continues.

What follows are some of those trends, along with some things for you to consider about your own past, present and future style of managing.

Interviewing and hiring – When I first started my career, most managers relied primarily on their gut feeling when it came to interviewing and making hiring decisions. Managers looked for people who were like-minded.

These days online job boards, competency-based interviews, personality assessments, job descriptions and high-level recruiters are used to making hiring decisions. The gut feeling has diminished a great deal, which is for the better.

What I see happening in the future is even more psychometric testing that is aimed at much clearer matches between the job requirements and the skills of the candidate. Future hires will be matched more closely to the job which will speed up productivity and cut down on the training time needed.

Using performance data – Thirty years ago, data was mostly used for financial reporting. The methods of collecting data were crude at best. Managers looked at volumes of paper reports trying to decipher what was most meaningful.

Now, data is instantaneous and overwhelming in the amount available. The challenge facing managers is the same, trying to find the data that is most meaningful for planning and forecasting. While managers used to hold onto data and use it for power, performance data now is readily available, which increases transparency and speed of problem-solving.

Giving feedback – Previously, managers did not give employees much feedback at all. If they did, it was mostly negative. Employees were kept in the dark about their performance and just figured that no news was good news.

Managers now realize that in order to keep employees motivated and productive, they must give them a great deal of feedback frequently. Unfortunately, I see a trend of that feedback taking the form of computer-generated feedback through texting and emails. Face-to-face feedback has diminished. Managers see electronic feedback as fast and easy, but it is easily misunderstood when written on a smartphone.

I still hear the same complaint today that I heard 30 years ago – people do not know where they stand with their bosses. In the future, I see a reversal of this trend, as managers start to realize that the cost of misunderstanding is not worth the speed and ease of electronics.

Performance reviews – In the old days, the HR people told managers that it was time to give performance reviews and tell people what their pay increase was going to be. It was very matter-of-fact and primarily consisted of how the employee could improve.

Current experience tells me that today performance reviews have not changed a lot. Managers struggle with trying to rate people, stack rank them, and get nervous about lawsuits. HR folks put a pot of money together and tell managers to fit everyone into a normal distribution. Unfortunately, I do not see much change in how performance reviews are handled.

Interpersonal skills – Historically, managers were promoted based on technical skills, not interpersonal skills. They were promoted from the ranks and knew how to get the job done, but struggled with talking to people. These days, managers are trained in interpersonal skills and are held accountable for how they treat people.

Employee attitude surveys, exit interviews, and skip-level meetings add to the accountability for managers improving their interpersonal skills. The future is bleak for managers developing greater interpersonal skills as electronic communication continues to dominate.

In summary, trends in managing have changed mostly for the better over the past three decades. In order for employees to feel valued and motivated, managers must go beyond the skills that got them to where they are today. No one goes to the gym once and comes out physically fit.

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