There are two eternal truths: life is about change, and managing people is never easy. To compound the issue, managers are now facing new challenges. The pandemic has produced a rapidly changing business environment and created a number of new obstacles. In this article, we will review the top challenges facing management and explore how they can be resolved.
We’ll explore how you can conquer uncertainty, improve employee well-being, support diversity and inclusion in your workplace, bridge the skills gap and much more. Let’s get started!
The Top Fifteen Challenges Facing Managers Today
- Uncertainty about the Future
- Wellbeing of Employees
- Tracking Team Productivity
- Shaping Company Culture
- Recruiting and Onboarding the Right Employees
- Supporting Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace
- Managing Communication Between Teams
- Regulation & Compliance
- Technology & Digitalisation
- Mind the Skills Gap
- High Staff Turnover
- Creating Innovative Teams
- Breaking Down Silos
- Knowledge Loss & Brain Drain
- Finding the Holy Grail: Engagement
1. Uncertainty about the Future
Did you know that only 20% of managers said they had full clarity on how business initiatives rolled out in 2019 impacted against organisational goals. That means that 80% of managers are acting without a comprehensive vision of how and why changes are being made. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate this trend. According to McKinsey, existing management models no longer address the challenges that the crisis presents.
There are consequences to all this uncertainty. For instance, it can impact our mental wellbeing and decision-making. We may find ourselves more prone to making rash decisions. Likewise, we may find ourselves putting off decisions until we have more data points to work from.
Top Tip: The best way to deal with uncertainty is to embrace the fact that it’s here to stay indefinitely (unless AI becomes smart enough to predict the future!). Managers should consider reevaluating their current operating models, in light of this uncertainty. If you haven’t yet, scenario planning is a practice you may want to start incorporating into your strategic approach.
If you start planning for future scenarios now, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them when they eventually arrive. We can’t predict the future, but we can make ourselves future-proof.
2. Wellbeing of Employees
COVID-19 has clearly proven to be an ominous threat, impacting the health of both individuals and businesses. Research shows us that 93% of employees have struggled with their wellbeing in 2020. That’s almost everybody! 73% of those affected linked this struggle to the pandemic.
Workers who have shifted from the office to working remotely, have reported feeling less connected to their colleagues. Job insecurity continues to be another source of stress, with 23% of the workforce fearing that they may lose their source of income. Health and safety concerns relating to a possible return to the workplace, have also fueled anxiety for many employees.
Top Tip: Did these stats stress you out? Well, we’re here to give you hope! Remote work is likely to continue for around 41% of employees. As such, it’s time to start redesigning work schemes to promote employee wellbeing and support programmes in favour of today’s hybrid workforce!
You’ll also need to ensure that your team is equipped with the right tools. This means helping them to connect with one another, engage with your organisational mission and aiding their profession development. Keep in mind that the best tools are the ones that cater to the needs of your employees, not just to your bottom line.
3. Tracking and Increasing Team Productivity
Successful organisations all have at least one thing in common: employee productivity. In fact, a Harvard study confirms that the best companies are 40% more productive than the rest. This is why tracking and improving team productivity remains one of the top challenges facing managers today.
Unfortunately, it has become even more challenging due to our continuously evolving workplace. These changes have been driven by technology, globalisation and the pandemic.
Tracking productivity gets even trickier for managers looking after a team with different work setups, work habits and timezones.
So, the question remains. How can managers effectively track and increase team productivity in this day and age?
Top Tip: 75% of global organisations are projected to increase their usage of productivity tools this year. But that doesn’t mean you should rush out and purchase the first productivity tool you can find. You should seek to find tools that match your company values and your business goals.
Similarly, with learning and development activities (which are often strongly associated with increased engagement and productivity), there are a number of online learning solutions to choose from. Some of these (such as Growth Engineering LMS) have been proven to supercharge team performance and make a genuine business impact.
4. Shaping Company Culture
43% of HR leaders said that keeping a strong company culture alive will be their biggest challenge in 2021. Company culture is a key driver of employee engagement and productivity. Research shows that 77% of employees believe company culture to be essential. As such, it’s important that we address this challenge. We must create a workplace culture that marches to the beat of our organisational goals.
With more companies adapting to hybrid working arrangements, this has resulted in more dispersed teams. Work at home employees also face increased isolation. Our (virtual) interactions are often limited to our team or our manager. There are fewer watercooler moments to enjoy.
As a result, organizations can no longer rely on HR alone to drive culture-building activities. Today’s managers play a greater role than ever before in shaping company culture.
Top Tip: Within your teams, encourage a culture of active interaction and unity among team members. Take time to openly recognize each member’s contributions and achievements.
Having all your managers and employees on the same page and engaged with your company’s identity is critical! When going through a culture change, applying social learning and gamification techniques to your retraining programme may just help the transformation to stick!
5. Recruiting & Onboarding the Right Talent
Recruitment has never been an easy task. 45% of employers struggle to find talent with the right skills. Today’s hiring managers do not have an easy job ahead of them. After all, they need to contend with and adapt to trends brought about by the pandemic. Think virtual recruitment, remote working arrangements and employee wellbeing.
Talent acquisition strategies should also be reexamined, in view of attracting a diverse candidate pool. And once you’ve done that, you then need to concoct a great onboarding experience to deliver to your new recruits.
A study by Gallup reports that 88% of employees were deprived of a proper onboarding experience. Here’s your chance to not add to that statistic!
Top Tip: Future-proof new hires to ensure they’re in it for the long run and are aligned with your company’s mission. This will require having a strong recruitment strategy in place.
You may want to update your hiring pitch so that it is better suited to a remote or hybrid workforce.
You should also ensure your recruitment strategy helps to support a more diverse and inclusive environment. If you can complement this approach with a strong onboarding strategy (facilitated by learning technology), then you’ll build a super team in no time!
6. Supporting Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace
Ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace has become one of the biggest challenges facing today’s modern organizations. Diversity in the workplace focuses on respecting and appreciating all employees for their differences (e.g. ethnicity, age, religion, education, gender, disability, etc.). Inclusion, on the other hand, focuses on ensuring that all employees feel valued and supported as individuals, irrespective of their physical or cultural differences.
McKinsey has been able to show that companies with a more diverse workforce perform better than other employers. Similarly, research conducted by the CIPD reveals how building a more inclusive culture in the workplace can greatly increase employee engagement and wellbeing.
But with the move to remote working, today’s managers must find new ways to be inclusive in our ever changing workplace environment.
Top Tip: Driving the L&D agenda within your teams is something that managers should commit to this year. D&I initiatives also need to be practised and communicated among all members of the team. Having metrics to measure your efforts is also a good idea.
Hiring managers may also work on recruitment strategies designed to better attract a diverse pool of candidates. By doing so, you can set your company up for increased innovation and success!
7. Managing Communication Between Teams
Do you communicate effectively with your team? A company culture built on effective communication can differentiate a great team from an average one! But recent work trends have increased the challenge of communication between teams. Research shows that 97% of workers consider communication to have a meaningful impact on their daily tasks.
But did you know that 71% of employees do not read or engage with company emails or content? This is a surefire way for miscommunication, costing many companies thousands of dollars. As such, improving team communication is essential. When this happens, organizations report increased productivity levels and improved connectivity between employees.
Top Tip: If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how to drive team collaboration and communication between remote/virtual teams. Ensure that your communications content is clear and simplistic. As social beings, we are most productive when we feel connected to our managers and organisation. Pursue regular catch-ups with employees where they can air their opinions or concerns.
Engagement is key, so managers should not hesitate to explore different communication channels. For instance, 75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than text. That said, managers may also want to consider adopting gamification and social learning strategies to really level up engagement!
8. Regulation & Compliance
Dealing with regulations and compliance have become one of the key challenges facing managers of today. This comes as no surprise, as companies have needed to respond fast to new guidelines linked to the pandemic and shifts in the political environment.
Compliance comes in many different shapes and sizes. There’s conduct compliance, which sees challenges in managing conduct amid today’s hybrid work setup. Similarly, there’s culture compliance, which deals with employee wellbeing, and ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Challenges with data compliance also continue to saddle managers, as cybersecurity, privacy and fraud become even larger threats this year.
Top Tip: Managers will need to be more alert and mindful of compliance measures relevant to their team operations. Managers may also need to consider how to best communicate this among their employees by using the right tools and channels.
Selecting the right learning management system is a good way of getting teams onboard and engaged each time you roll out a new policy or procedure! These tools can also be a great way of tracking compliance and recertifying where necessary.
9. Technology & Digitalisation
Let’s face it. Digitalisation is no longer an option, but a necessary mode of survival. With the monumental changes we witnessed in 2020, the organisations who have continued to thrive are those who have embraced a digital business model. And those who didn’t? Well, let’s not go there…
There is increased pressure for today’s managers to keep up as technology continues to evolve. They also face the challenge of finding the right software solutions to invest in on the behalf of their organisations.
Top Tip: Despite the veritable treasure trove of technology solutions out there, you still need to take the time to consider what you really need. What problem are you solving? Avoid the lure of buying the most sophisticated or popular technology in the industry. Oftentimes, the right solution is the simplest one.
Look into tools or platforms that will be the best fit for your employees or customers. Make sure that they address the 3 Cs’s (collaboration, coordination and culture). Also, think about what stage of digitalisation your company is currently at and whether or not it’s time to level up your existing digital infrastructure.
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10. Mind the Skills Gap
Alarmingly, 35% of the skills that workforces have, will likely be irrelevant in the next few years. This shift will necessitate a rapid reskilling drive. In fact, 66% of HR leaders say that building critical skills and competencies will be a key priority for the next three years.
So, if you thought the skills shortage was tough now, it’s only set to get worse if you don’t do something about it. The constant need to ensure our workforce is up to date on the latest trends, knowledge and skills is a big challenge facing managers today. No sooner have your teams completed the latest classroom training, than their shiny new skills are already out of date!
Top Tip: Managers need to offer training solutions that can evolve as quickly as learners’ needs. This is where learning technology helps! Tools such as an LMS and mobile learning means you can provide ‘just-in-time’ tailored training wherever and whenever your teams need it.
They can simply log in and upskill immediately on their learning platform, rather than forcing teams to wait until the next classroom course is scheduled! This way, you can start to plug the skills gaps and ensure your teams are ready for whatever change is around the corner.
11. High Staff Turnover
Few jobs, or even careers, are for life. In fact, the average time spent in a job is just 4.2 years (and it’s even less for millennials!). In this job-hopping world, the challenge is how to retain top talent. If you fail to do so, the costs can be exorbitant! It takes 33% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them. This figure rises to a whopping 400% for expert senior staff!
Of course, it’s not all about hard figures and the bottom line. It’s about team spirit! Each time someone leaves, their ideas, knowledge, expertise, or simple awesomeness goes with them. So, it’s no surprise that 47% of HR leaders consider attracting and retaining top talent to be a major priority. So, how is it done?
Top Tip: We say train to retain! It’s easy to assume that retaining staff is all about offering more money or annual promotions. The good news is, this isn’t always the case! Your teams want to learn. Research shows 65% of employees say development and training opportunities would increase their company loyalty.
Another study shows that employees who are encouraged to grow their skills are twice as likely to spend their career with that company. You can reduce staff turnover as such by offering meaningful development opportunities and training that’s tailored to your team’s personal goals.
12. Creating Innovative Teams
In another blog on ‘innovation at work’, we discussed why nurturing creative teams matters. Our business success and survival depends on it! Yet, in challenging times it’s tempting to put great ideas on the back burner. However, if we don’t encourage innovation within our teams, those great ideas will soon dry up.
Worse still, employees will take their brainwaves and incredible ideas to a more innovative employer! So, however busy you are, or profit-focused your KPIs happen to be, it’s always worth prioritising your team’s creativity. After all, innovative companies lead to happier customers and higher employee loyalty!
Top Tip: Many people want to collaborate at work. So give your teams the tools they need to share their ideas! If your LMS has social features, encourage everyone to post on the news feed and message boards. Where necessary, you should generate conversations to get their creative juices flowing.
Creativity and innovation don’t always have to be about big ideas or brand new inventions. It’s also about the small tips we share that make day-to-day life run that little bit smoother. Why not ask people to share their best practices or post an inspiring TED Talk that motivated them in their post-lunch slump?
13. Breaking Down Silos
As a business grows and the organisational structure evolves, departments are formed to serve clear functions. However, these departments may lead to business silos. And these silos are a blight on much of the corporate world. For anybody in the dark about this (lucky you!), the term describes teams that are inward-looking and inclined to hold onto information rather than share their knowledge.
In times of change, there’s a higher risk of silos forming. Silos are no place for your company’s knowledge, ideas and talent! Communication and expertise should flow freely throughout the organisation to ensure everyone benefits. This way, innovation and positive organisational change can flourish.
Top Tip: It’s time to break down the barriers and unleash the expertise within your teams! You can do this through the power of reward. And the best reward of all? Recognition, of course. And you don’t need to rely solely on extrinsic rewards.
You could, for instance, encourage individuals to share their specialist knowledge by awarding those who do so with ‘Expert status’ on your LMS. This coveted title recognises staff strengths, contributions and efforts to help others.
For many people, becoming an official subject matter expert is a strong intrinsic motivator because it builds a personal sense of purpose. After all, being needed and valued feels awesome! When your teams feel their expertise is recognised, they are more likely to want to share it. Soon the defensive barriers will be down for good and there won’t be a silo in sight!
14. Knowledge Loss & Brain Drain
Managers around the world are having to come to terms with an ever-growing problem. People leaving. And, even worse, taking their knowledge with them when they go.
Add all the knowledge of your staff into one giant knowledge-bundle, and that’s your organisation’s intellectual capital. But every time an employee leaves, they take some of their knowledge with them. This can cause huge problems, especially when that important knowledge hasn’t been shared.
Top Tip: It’s essential for managers to encourage a knowledge-sharing culture. It’s the only real solution to the brain-drain crisis!
In fact, if you want to find out more about how you can build a knowledge-sharing culture in your organisation and combat the erosion of your business’s intellectual capital, then you should download this guide.
15. Finding the Holy Grail: Employee Engagement
One of the biggest challenges of our time is employee engagement. Research shows that engaged employees are more productive, more creative and less likely to leave. Therefore it’s not surprising that 88% of businesses are seeking to improve employee engagement.
You’re in for a bigger challenge if you’re handling remote or dispersed teams. Silos can be formed as remote teams are less likely to know what’s happening with other departments. This can reduce an employee’s connection with their wider organization, leading to increased levels of disengagement. Hence, today’s managers face the need more than ever to keep the team’s spirits up (it’s time to bring out those virtual pompoms!) and hearts closer to shared company culture and values.
Top Tip: Epic Meaning is the key to employee engagement. Epic Meaning is a powerful intrinsic motivator because it’s the ‘why’ that drives our every action. It’s our sense of purpose and desire to make a difference.
When it comes to your team, Epic Meaning is the ingredient that emotionally connects employees to your company’s greater purpose. You can engage employees by ensuring Epic Meaning is at the heart of all you do, from your daily communications to your weekly meetings and employee training.
Make sure each team member understands how their actions at work benefit both them and the company’s mission.
So there you have it. The top 15 challenges facing management within organizations today. Being prepared means knowing what challenges you face and taking the steps to anticipate or address them.
Succeeding in today’s business world is to embrace uncertainty with knowledge and a plan of action. Hopefully, this article can help you to start to think of the right strategies and tools to take on these challenges with confidence!
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