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Management fundamentals remain the same in disrupted workforce

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It’s 2017 and some people move from one short term job (the ‘gig’ economy) rather than look for a permanent position, and do so without necessarily expecting to meet colleagues or even managers face-to-face.

This new landscape could cause managers to anxiously search for the new rule book, however, Executive Education Facilitator and Postgraduate Diploma in Business lecturer Jolyon Allen assures managers that many of the principles remain the same.

“Take something like performance management: you set some goals for your staff member; you monitor your staff member’s progress; you help them achieve those goals – I don’t think that process is going to change,” Allen says.

This doesn’t mean that the job of a manager of a team with members scattered across various locations remains the same – in fact while a few decades back a manager might be trying to focus their team on the job at hand, in a digital environment the manager becomes the “water-cooler”.

“If you have people working in different countries or time-zones you need to, ideally, do the big stuff but also more of the small communication stuff more frequently. ‘What was your weekend like?’ ‘How is the family?’ You have to spend a lot more time working on the small stuff to make them feel part of the team, because you don’t have the luxury of face-to-face contact,” Allen says.

Facilitating a sense of community, collaboration and team culture are not new. It has long been recognised as fundamental to good management, but this can be even more important in a virtual team as often team members are seconded to a project the expense of their regular day-to-day work, Allen explains.

The critical role of communication is no different in a virtual team. Working across time-zones with a diverse group of people makes an ability to understand and adapt to other cultures even more important.

Allen illustrates this through comparing the way people from different cultures operate in a business context. For example, “New Zealanders will frequently interrupt or talk over each other whereas other cultures are much politer. For instance, in Japan people wait for their turn to talk, are differential to senior or older staff and, are unlikely to say ‘no’ directly.

Despite the disruption in the tools and technology that people use to do their work and where in the globe they do it, Allen says the managers he sees still ask the same fundamental questions – which he navigates them through in his courses. These are:

  • How do I manage older people who are different e.g. older, younger, millennials?
  • How do I motivate people?
  • How do I get people to perform?
  • How do I get people to accept change?
  • What makes a good leader?
  • How do I create a productive team?

Jolyon Allen facilitates the courses:



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