Want to Be a Great Boss in 5 Years? You Need to Learn These Skills

September 27, 2017

The next five years will be a time of rapid change in work, which will put a huge strain on managers.

We know the world of work is changing quickly, particularly when you hear stats like the shelf-life of a skill today is a mere 5 years. But often, when we hear stats like that we think of hard skills, such as having to learn some new technology or software.

That’s not accurate. There’s a misnomer out there that being a great manager requires a more static skillset that doesn't change much over time. Not true. The world of work is rapidly changing, and the skills managers need to possess will rapidly change as well.

So what skills will become critical for managers to master over the next five years? To find out, we consulted with three experts on the subject:

  • Todd Dewett, a former professor of management who now runs his own leadership management firm, where he goes around the world coaching managers.

  • LinkedIn Learning Sr. Manager of Business Content Jolie Miller, who oversees business publishing and extensive quantitative and qualitative research on what skills are trending for today’s leaders.

  • Former LinkedIn Head of Human Resources Pat Wadors, who was both a manager of a 500-employee department herself and charged with developing great managers at LinkedIn.

The three of them collectively highlighted several skills that – thanks to changes in both market conditions and demographics – will become increasingly more important to managers over the next five years. They are:

Adaptability

With artificial intelligence playing a bigger and bigger role, along with significant political developments, it’s hard to predict exactly how work will change over the next five years.

But here’s something you can count on – it will change and likely change drastically. And that will create a massive challenge for managers, Miller, Wadors and Dewett said.

That’s because invariably, the toughest times for any manager is during a transition, as people tend to resist change. With more transitions virtually guaranteed, the best managers will be the ones who are the most open to those changes and can effectively manage their employees through it.

That starts with managers themselves being open to change and setting the example for the rest of the team. But, even beyond that, they need to be able to effectively manage their employees through all of this change as well – not an easy task.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

Recruiting

Hiring has always been difficult; but it will only get more difficult over the next five years. The best managers will have to be both excellent screeners of talent, as well as being “talent magnets” themselves.

Let’s start with why hiring is only going to get harder. Not that long ago, jobs were relatively static. An accountant or a factory worker or a salesperson would often do the same thing day after day, so if someone had a certain amount of experience and/or the right credentials, it was likely they could do the job.

But that’s rarely the case anymore. Managers today will increasingly hire for jobs that have only existed for a few years. Even jobs that have been around for a long time have changed so dramatically, the skills needed to do them well are vastly different than what was needed 15 years ago.

Hence, hiring over the next five years will go away from looking at the stalwarts so many organizations used to rely on so heavily – namely, experience and college credentials. Instead, in a rapidly changing world, a person’s “transferable” skills like leadership and project management will increasingly become more important.

The challenge is that those skills are harder to screen for than, say, requiring at least five years of experience. That will make recruiting more challenging, requiring managers to be more in-tune with what they need.

“Not long ago, hiring managers looked for the presence or absence of a college degree,” Dewett said. “It wasn’t terribly complicated.  Today… the proliferation of educational sources is likely to increase the use of applied testing and actual work as forms of talent assessment during the screening process. That’s a lot more to understand compared to the traditional interview process.”

Additionally, managers themselves need to understand the importance they play in recruiting as well. Wadors describes the best managers as “talent magnets” who attract great people to work for them (it can go the other way too). So this quickly becomes a two-fold challenge: being both an excellent screener and attractor of talent (a rare combination).

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

Diversity and Inclusion

Going along with the last point, Wadors said diversity and inclusion will increasingly become more important over the next five years. And not just racial or gender diversity, but diversity of thought and background as well.

Why?

First off, there is a plethora of research suggesting that diverse, inclusive teams outperform more homogeneous teams. Additionally, hiring great talent will increasingly become more important – although if you are (intentionally or unintentionally) excluding certain people, you are limiting your field and hurting your employer brand.

Wadors said the key here is casting a wider net when hiring. Requiring a college degree from a prestigious school or seven years of experience in a specific field is becoming outdated. Instead, it’s incumbent on managers to look beyond credentials, which will also open them up to a more diverse talent pool.

On the day-to-day management front, it comes down to inclusion, Wadors said. So yes, it’s great to have a diverse staff, but that diversity is wasted if people don’t feel like they belong at work. The best managers moving forward will focus on inclusion, where all of their employees – regardless of race, gender, political belief, extroversion level, etc. – believe like their opinions are valued and considered.

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

Managing Generational Differences

There are countless articles today on managing millennials. That’s because organizations are struggling to manage them. And, starting already, there’s a whole new struggle – turning these millennials into managers themselves.

Adding to that, for a variety of reasons, people are working longer than ever today. It’s not unusual for a manager to have a 25-year-old and a 65-year-old on the same team; something that was very rare 20 years ago. And there are still the Gen Xers, who seem to get almost no media attention, yet who occupy a significant portion of the workforce.

Oh, and here’s another thing – there’s been a lot written about millennials. But, by 2020, a whole new generation will be coming into the workforce: “Generation Z” (people born after the mid-1990s). Who knows what their collective personality will be like?

All of these generations have different expectations, different preferred methods of communication and different worldviews. And yet somehow, managers need to turn them all into one cohesive unit.

“Understanding values differences and differences in communication tools and methods will be vital,” Dewett said. “New open mindedness and creativity will be required to reimagine certain policies, processes and tools to accommodate the desires of the new majority.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

The takeaway

The role of manager will not be easy over the next five years. As you can see, you can count one thing: change. Change in the market, change in hiring trends, change in employee demographics and expectations.

All of that change has the potential to create real angst among employees. It’s up to managers to ensure that doesn’t happen.

So what’s the best strategy for managers moving forward? To embrace this change as much as they can and strive to always be learning. Along with being the best way to prepare themselves to handle it, it’ll also set the example to the rest of their team that this change presents a great opportunity, if handled correctly.

And, for organizations, the same can be said on a broader scale – if you can teach these skills to your managers, you'll have a huge advantage moving forward.

This article is part of a series on the future of work and the skills you and your team will need to succeed. Our other articles cover:

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