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16 Challenges Facing Today’s Managers (And What to Do About Them)

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.

Whilst we’ve successfully navigated through the pandemic, we’re now confronted with a changing business environment and rapid digital transformation. It’s like starring in your very own Fast & Furious movie. 

In this article, we will review the top challenges facing managers and investigate 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 16 Challenges Facing Managers Today

  1. Uncertainty about the Future
  2. Wellbeing of Employees
  3. Tracking Team Productivity
  4. Shaping Company Culture
  5. Recruiting and Onboarding the Right Employees
  6. Supporting Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace
  7. Managing Communication Between Teams
  8. Regulation & Compliance
  9. Technology & Digitalisation
  10. Mind the Skills Gap
  11. High Staff Turnover
  12. Creating Innovative Teams
  13. Breaking Down Silos
  14. Knowledge Loss & Brain Drain
  15. The Rise of the Machines (AI)
  16. Finding the Holy Grail: Engagement

1. Uncertainty about the Future

Uncertainty about the future

Accurately predicting the future is impossible — unless you happen to have a crystal ball. The pandemic, digital transformation, cost of living crisis, rate of inflation and rise of AI have created a cocktail of uncertainty. 

In fact, 89% of HR leaders say that employees have recently voiced concerns about job security or organisational changes. This concern is not entirely ill-founded. According to McKinsey, one in 16 workers may have to switch occupations by 2030. 

There are consequences to all this uncertainty. For instance, it can impact our mental wellbeing and decision-making. In fact, scientists have been able to show that uncertainty causes more stress than pain we know is inevitable.

In other words, whether the news is good or bad, your employees need to be kept informed. You can’t flee the future.

Top Tip: The best way to deal with uncertainty is to embrace the fact that it’s here to stay. As John Allen Paulos puts it, ‘uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.’

Managers should consider reevaluating their current operating models, in light of this uncertainty. Scenario planning is a practice you may want to start incorporating into your strategic approach. This can help you to build organisational resilience.

2. Wellbeing of Employees

Wellbeing of employees

You’ll spend 90,000 hours of your life at work. Given that this is almost a third of our time on the planet, it’s important that this environment is good for our general health and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, research shows that this isn’t always the case. Indeed, 76% of working professionals experienced moderate to high levels of stress in 2023.

Worse still, according to Gallup, only 33% of employees are ‘thriving’ in their wellbeing. That leaves us with a big gap between where we are and where we should be. 

Factors that commonly cause work-related stress include:

  • Long hours, heavy workloads or tight deadlines
  • Lack of autonomy or boring work
  • Changes to duties or within the organisation
  • Job or financial insecurity

Why does this matter? Well, poor mental health is cited as a factor that impacts productivity for almost 1 in 5 employees. Workplace wellbeing has also been shown to lead to an increase in engagement and performance. 

Top Tip: Did these stats stress you out? Well, we’re here to give you hope! You should start by evaluating your workplace wellbeing programmes and resources. Mental health services are provided by 86% of employers. Ask yourself:

  • How do you educate your employees on the importance of mental health and wellbeing? 
  • Do you have a solution, programme or other resources in place?
  • Is it sufficient?

You should also ensure that your team has the tools they need to connect with one another, engage with your organisational mission and support their professional development. 

3. Tracking and Increasing Team Productivity 

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, this has become even more challenging in remote and hybrid working environments.

Research shows us that employees are only productive for about 60% of their workday and that a single distraction can burn through 4.8% of their time. Increasing or decreasing these numbers will have a meaningful impact on your bottom line. 

Tracking productivity is a challenge in itself. And it gets even trickier for managers looking after a team with different work setups, work habits and timezones.

Top Tip: 75% of global organisations are projected to increase their usage of productivity tools this year. If you haven’t already, you should seek a tool that matches your company’s mission and values.

The right learning and development activities can also lead to increased engagement and productivity. Solutions like Growth Engineering LMS help to supercharge team performance and drive business impact.

4. Shaping Company Culture

Shaping company culture

Company culture may be hard to define, but we can all tell a good one from a bad one. And we all know that a good organisational culture requires more than bean bags, free lattes and after work drinks. 

A company’s culture is the shared values and beliefs that govern and guide an organisation’s behaviour towards its employees, customers and other stakeholders. Getting this right makes a big difference. 

  • 90% of executives say that the importance of company culture is increasing. 
  • 46% of job seekers cite company culture as an important factor when applying for jobs.
  • Companies with a strong culture report 4x higher revenues.
  • And a strong organisational culture results in 72% higher employee engagement rates.

Unfortunately, culture challenges abound. Work at home employees 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.

You should also seek to forge a high-performance learning culture, powered by curiosity, a growth mindset and a love of innovation. 

5. Recruiting & Onboarding the Right Talent

Recruiting and onboarding

Recruitment has never been an easy task. According to a Monster report, 9 out of 10 employers struggle to fill their job vacancies. Furthermore, 86% of recruiters agree that the current job market is completely candidate-driven.

Perhaps this is unsurprising. According to Officevibe, top talent is only available for 10 days before it’s snapped up by a competitor.

Today’s hiring managers also need to contend with virtual recruitment, remote working arrangements and an increased focus on employee wellbeing. And once the recruitment process is over, you then need to create a great onboarding experience for your new recruits.

This is important. According to a Glassdoor study, an effective onboarding process can boost the retention of your new hires by 82%. Despite this, only 12% of US employees believe their company has a satisfactory onboarding process. 

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.

If you can complement this approach with a strong onboarding strategy (facilitated by learning technology), then you’ll build (and retain) a super team in no time.

6. Supporting Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusion

Developing and maintaining diversity and inclusion in the workplace has become one of the biggest challenges facing today’s 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.

These are important steps in and of themselves. But they also have a meaningful impact on your bottom line. According to a LinkedIn report:

  • Diverse companies deliver 2.5x higher cash flow per employee.
  • Inclusive teams are 35% more productive.
  • And diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. 

Despite the obvious benefits, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Indeed, 95.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs identify as white, non-hispanic individuals. 

Top Tip: Driving the D&I agenda within your teams is something that all managers should commit to this year. Having metrics to measure your efforts can also help.

Hiring managers should also seek to create recruitment strategies designed to 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

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.

Indeed, according to Expert Market, improving internal communication can boost organisational productivity by as much as 25%.

There’s also a cost to getting it wrong. According to Forbes, almost half of all workers have had their productivity impacted by ineffective communication. 

Remote and hybrid working has brought about its own set of communication challenges. After all, this creates new barriers that need to be overcome. If any of the issues below are a problem for your team, then it’s time to take action.

  • Lack of trust and camaraderie between team members
  • Unclear goals or expectations
  • Low levels of productivity
  • Regular conflict and disagreements

Top Tip: Focus on clarity of communication. 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.

Remember, feedback is your friend. It’s also a two way street. You should offer your team feedback, and seek out feedback for yourself from your team. After all, 72% of employees agree that feedback leads to an improved performance. 

8. Regulation & Compliance

Regulation and compliance

Dealing with regulations and compliance has become one of the key challenges facing managers today. After all, the world is changing at a bewildering pace. As a result, organisations have had to keep up with a slew of new legislation and guidelines.

Did you know that approximately 25% of an organisation’s revenue is spent on compliance costs? It’s vital that this money is not put to waste. 

Compliance comes in different shapes and sizes. For instance, there’s conduct compliance, culture compliance and even data compliance. After all, digital transformation creates an increased risk of cybersecurity issues and data breaches.

Top Tip: Managers will need to be more alert and mindful of compliance measures relevant to their team operations. You’ll also need to consider how to best communicate this among 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. After all, you’ll be able to track who’s completed what and automate any recertification requirements.

9. Technology & Digitalisation

Technology and digitalisation

Let’s face it. Digitalisation is no longer an option. It’s 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…

Despite this, only 35% of organisations have achieved their digital transformation goals. There’s still work to be done. 

As a result, 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 behalf of their organisation.

Digital transformation also brings a new set of challenges. Indeed, McKinsey reports that 70% of digital transformation projects fail due to internal resistance. Yikes. 

Top Tip: Think about what stage of digitalisation your company is currently at. Is it time to level up your existing digital infrastructure?

Despite the veritable treasure trove of technology solutions out there, you still need to take the time to consider what you really need. Avoid the lure of buying the most popular technology in the industry. Oftentimes, the right solution is the simplest one.

Try to determine which tools will be the best fit for your employees or customers. Make sure that they address the 3 Cs’s (collaboration, coordination and culture).

10. Mind the Skills Gap

Mind the skills gap

As we’ve already seen, digital disruption, AI and remote working have had a transformative effect on the modern workplace. As the world changes, we have to change alongside it. Indeed, reshaping our workplace learning strategy to fill the skills gap has become essential.

In fact, according to Matt Sigelman, ‘37% of job skills have been replaced just over the past five years’. Keeping up has become increasingly difficult.

Furthermore, according to McKinsey, 87% of organisations know they have a skills gap or will have one in the coming years. And yet only 40% of employees say that their company is actively focusing on upskilling

If you thought the skills shortage was tough now, it’s only set to get worse. 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.

Top Tip: Managers need to offer training solutions that can evolve as quickly as their learners’ needs. This is where learning technology can help. Tools such as learning management systems and learning apps empower you to provide ‘just-in-time’ training whenever your teams need it.

As a result, they no longer have to wait until the next classroom course is scheduled. This way, you can start to plug your skills gaps and ensure your teams are ready for whatever change is around the corner.

11. High Staff Turnover

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, retaining your top talent is a real challenge.

Indeed, according to a Joblist market trends report, 67% of job seekers are planning to quit their current role this year. 

The costs of employee turnover 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 93% of organisations are concerned about employee retention. 

But how can you stem this tide?

Top Tip: We say train to retain! It’s easy to assume that reducing turnover 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 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. 

12. Creating Innovative Teams

Creating innovative teams

Nurturing creativity and staving of stagnation matters. Our business success and survival depends on it. Yet, in challenging times it’s tempting to put great ideas on the back burner.

Did you know that 75% of us feel like we are not living up to our creative potential?

This wasted potential has an impact. For instance, if we don’t encourage innovation within our teams, their well of curiosity and great ideas will soon dry up. Worse still, employees will take their 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: Learning cultures create a shared growth mindset powered by curiosity and innovation.

To deliver this, you’ll need to give your teams the tools they need to share their ideas. If your learning platform has social features, then encourage everyone to post on the news feed and message boards.

Creativity and innovation don’t always have to be about big ideas or new inventions. It’s also about the small tips we share that make day-to-day life run that little bit smoother. 

13. Breaking Down Silos

Breaking down knowledge silos

As a business grows and the organisational structure evolves, departments and teams are formed to serve clear functions. However, this may also lead to business silos.

This term describes teams or individuals that are inward-looking and inclined to hold onto information rather than share their knowledge. These silos are a blight on much of the corporate world. 

According to Starmind, 41% of survey respondents report knowledge silos between departments. They also note that silo mentality is growing stronger.

This makes sense. In times of change, there’s a higher risk of silos forming. But silos are no place for your company’s knowledge, ideas and talent. After all, sharing is caring.

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 recognition.

For instance, encourage SMEs to share their specialist knowledge by awarding those who do so with ‘Expert status’ on your LMS. This additional status recognises their efforts to help others.

14. Knowledge Loss & Brain Drain

Knowledge loss

Managers around the world are having to come to terms with an ever-growing problem. People leaving and taking their knowledge with them when they go.

Add all the knowledge of your staff into one giant bundle, and that’s your organisation’s intellectual capital. But every time an employee leaves, they take some of their knowledge with them.

According to Panopto, the average US-based enterprise business loses $4.5m in productivity per year by failing to share and preserve information. 

Studies have also found that knowledge loss leads to low morale and decreased work quality. It’s time to take action!

Top Tip: It’s essential for managers to encourage a knowledge-sharing culture. It’s the only real solution to the brain-drain crisis.

To do this, ensure you have social learning solutions in place. This will help you to capture informal learning experiences. Then it’s up to you to encourage your learners to take part.

15. The Rise of the Machines (AI)

AI rise of the machines

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been with us for a while, but 2023 was the year it went mainstream. New tools have now started to pop up on an almost daily basis.

AI can now automate copywriting, video and audio editing, data analysis, training interventions and any number of tasks. Estimates suggest that one billion of us are at risk of losing our jobs to AI over the next decade.

Job loss (and the ‘risk of extinction‘) is one thing. But there are a number of other risks associated with AI. For instance, poor datasets can lead to unreliable or biased algorithms. Garbage in, garbage out.

These are blind spots which we must learn to overcome if we are to fully embrace AI-powered automation.

Top Tip: Consider your goals and select suitable targets. For instance, AI is great at automating repetitive administrative tasks. There’s no reason why you should be scheduling interviews, onboarding new employees or answering customer queries yourself!

Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the datasets that are used and monitor any potential ethical concerns

16. Finding the Holy Grail: Employee Engagement

Employee engagement

One of the biggest challenges of our time is employee engagement.

According to Gallup, 23% of employees are engaged at work. This is the highest annual figure they’ve ever recorded. However, it’s still low. This means that less than a quarter of us are actively engaged in the workplace.

Why does this matter? Well, there’s a direct relationship between engagement and impact:

  • 14% increased productivity
  • 18% increased sales
  • 23% increased profitability
  • 10% increase in customer ratings

As such, it’s time to break out the pompoms and drum up some engagement.

Top Tip: Learning leads to engagement. According to a Udemy study, 80% of employees agree that learning new skills makes them feel more engaged. 

You should also channel Epic Meaning. 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. Make sure each team member understands how their actions at work benefit both them and the company’s mission.

Final Word

So, there you have it. The top 16 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 means embracing uncertainty, building plans of action and unlocking the full potential of your teams.

We hope this article can help you to create the right strategies and implement the right tools to take on these challenges with confidence.

The right organisational learning strategy can help you to overcome all challenges and safeguard your success. Get started now with our free ‘L&D Professional’s Handbook‘.

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