So, it's really here. What started off as the tentative whispers of economists six months ago has grown into daily reminders from the media - 'the recovery' has arrived. It's early days, it's fragile, but we're optimistic.
After years busting a gut just to survive, we're now in a new era for British business. Firms finally have a bit of breathing space - so now is the time to refocus. At CMI, I'm always asked at this time of year what managers should focus on in the 12 months to come. What should managers' new year's resolutions be? My answer this year: start it determined to get future fit.
The truth is, management needs a makeover for 2014 if new year optimism is to translate into long-term growth. We're facing two key challenges: the rapid pace of workplace change, and a mismatch between what managers need to be good at and what they are actually good at.
A 2020 vision
Our new research predicts changes that will transform the way we work over the rest of this decade. Managers believe the traditional 9-5 will disappear and the boundaries between home and work life will become entirely blurred. Perhaps in reaction to this, they also forecast much closer monitoring of individual performance. Only future fit managers will be able to successfully lead these changes.
This future-gazing data also shows that the top five areas where managers should be excelling by the end of the decade are currently their weak spots. They admit they struggle most to be effective in exactly the areas where they will need to shine, in the future to help their companies grow and compete. For example, building partnerships is the number one skill managers believe they'll need in 2020, but networking is currently their third biggest weakness. Similarly, managers admit their tech skills let them down, but identify social media as a top five must-have skill for the future. It's a phenomenon we constantly come up against - many managers know what they should be doing, but so few get it right.
Getting future fit
The good news is that management is actually stunningly simple with the right support and training. It's all about people. As managers, we get caught up in tasks, fixating on ticking things off 'to do' lists. As a result, we neglect people, when it's people that are the key to results. This is something I explore more in the newly launched 'How to Make a Difference and Get Results'. Far too many managers aren't given any training in how to manage, and are just thrown in at the deep end - and we know managers have been under growing levels of pressure during the downturn. So a big challenge for 2014 is to stop 'just' managing and start achieving. Focusing on the following four trends will help achieve a lot more this year and in the future:
- Stop controlling and start coaching. A 'no brainer' in this Third Metric era, it's better for growth, job satisfaction and employee wellbeing. Research shows growing organisations are those with empowering, trusting management styles whereas 'command and control' styles are linked with decline. Managers who make a pledge to coach their staff to find their own strengths this new year will have happy, engaged, highly performing teams.
- Bring your personal ethics to work. Companies where the organisation's values are linked to its people's values fare better. Be inclusive and embrace diversity to bring together talented individuals across your business. If you're open and lead by example, your organisation will benefit from a transparent workplace culture where everyone knows what's expected of them and they work hard to make a valuable contribution.
- Get networked. Stop competing and start collaborating, inside and outside of your business. It will help build lucrative partnerships and facilitate innovation. The most successful managers are continuously learning from everything going on around them and everyone they interact with.
- Think agile. The more quickly and easily you can adapt to change and creatively combine people, processes and technology, the more successful you'll be. Agile managers thrive on being flexible, dynamic and innovative and have a knack for building fluid teams as well as seamlessly adjusting to different environments and cultures.
To help managers start taking control of their own skills development in 2014, CMI is launching Hidden Heroes - 12 quick-fire questions that contrast current strengths and weaknesses with future needs to reveal managers' inner "Hidden Heroes". The app then offers managers free practical guidance to kick-start their development.