emba HR leadership
The manager of today (and tomorrow)
The job market of the near future will feature managers open to change and able to evolve. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or rather the use of technology in numerous activities previously carried out exclusively by man, threatens some professions, promises to create new ones, and requires an effort to adapt from everyone, in particular from those with decision-making roles.
That of manager is one of the professions that has the least to fear from changes underway, indeed managers will take on an increasingly key role. But precisely for this reason managers have a greater need than others to update their expertise to be prepared for the continuous evolution of job scenarios. The evolution that they are called upon to interpret and manage.
The Future of Jobs Report 2018, published by World Economic Forum, indicates the professions tied to reasoning and decision-making, and those related to coordination, development, management and consulting, as the two categories in which the relationship between hours worked by humans and machines will remain decisively tilted towards the former. But the same report stresses that by 2022, at least 54% of managers will be required to undergo a major re-skilling or upskilling. Many of the companies interviewed declared their intention to concentrate their efforts to upgrade expertise on employees with high value-added positions.
The manager of the future, called on to navigate in a complex society that changes continuously and at a very rapid pace, on one hand needs always up-to-date hard skills, especially in the technological field, and on the other hand soft skills like analytic thinking, resilience, creativity, emotional intelligence, flexibility.
The matter was also discussed in the “Human skills and drivers for change” roundtable, held on 2 February at MIP Politecnico di Milano during the first EMBA Day 2019 (the event is part of the “Practising Leadership cycle”, whose next appointment is scheduled for 6 March on the theme of “Empower your career”). On that occasion, Pino Mercuri, Human Resources Director at Microsoft Italia, focused on the issue of obsolescence of IT skills. “The average engineering or technological skill has a shelf life between 24 and 48 months –said Mercuri –. However, we don’t have complete clarity about the skills that will be necessary in the near future. We talk about Machine Learning, of AI, of IoT, but they’re often more passwords than real concepts”.
Faced with this increased instability on required skills, the ability to learn and the motivation to do so over one’s working life become increasingly important. “At Microsoft we tried to make everyone understand that learning isn’t only necessary but is also an element of evaluation – added Mercuri –. In our performance management system, we ask you to declare what you intend to do to grow and learn, and the answer to that question is verified during the next evaluation step”.
The head hunter Jacopo Pasetti, also present at the roundtable, focused on two concepts, awareness and passion: “Awareness should be considered as an understanding of our career path and what we truly like to do. It’s necessary so that the continuous updating required due to the rapid evolution of skills isn’t considered to be a weight. So you must choose your career path not on the basis of what’s in fashion at the moment but by following your passions, in addition to a clear strategy”.
However, the importance of soft skills shouldn’t lead to neglecting hard skills. “We’re in a historical moment in which they’re trying to convince us that skills and culture aren’t so important after all – stressed Fulvia Fiaschetti, Global Talent Acquisition Associate Director of Amplifon –. I believe instead that the business world strongly opposes this type of thinking”. Technical expertise, the manager argues, is needed especially at the entrance in a company, while soft skills are developed later and serve to make further progress. Communication, empathy, forward thinking are skills that can’t be learned from books.
The need to learn quickly also leads to the spread of a culture of error, understood as an invitation to continuously dare and experiment, also using failure as a means for learning. “The error isn’t only possible but is also necessary to acquire an increasing number of skills – pointed out Pino Mercuri –. If you’re making mistakes, it’s probably because you’re truly trying to innovate”.