What does the changing workforce mean for management professionals?

What does the changing workforce mean for management professionals?

It's no secret that the workforce – and in fact most of Australia – is changing, with a major demographic shift meaning millennials will soon be the dominant generation in the workplace. It's a development that will have a noticeable effect on the way people within organisations interact, and it's up to management professionals to acknowledge these changes and adjust their leadership styles accordingly. 

As people bring the techniques they learn from management training into the workplace, it's important to be aware of how different groups within organisations respond to authority. In a world defined by constant change and a need for ongoing collaboration, creating lasting relationships between workers of all generations will be essential to management success. 

The changing of the guard

For the past decade or more, baby boomers have been the majority force in businesses across Australia, a fact that is now changing rapidly as millennials begin to rise through the ranks. Employee motivation solutions provider Maritz is expecting baby boomers to have vacated the workforce almost completely by 2020, leaving behind a group that responds to authority in a significantly different way. 

Millennials will soon be the majority in the workforce.

Martiz defines these professionals as being goal-oriented and responsive to financial rewards and recognition. In their roles, they are driven by the relationships they build, as well as the potential to work into positions of authority themselves. 

On the other hand, millennials, who are likely to make up 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, demand more from their managers and often don't respond as well to traditional leadership styles. These professionals instead look for flexibility in their work lives – such as the ability to work from home – and a culture that supports their ongoing development. Even the roles millennials perform within businesses may be in a constant state of flux, as Maritz reports they are born tech-savvy multi-taskers. Will managers be able to adapt to make the most of this new workforce?

What are the different leadership styles?

Broadly speaking, the way managers engage with employees will fall under one of two main leadership styles, and online education can help understand how these manifest in the workplace. Like the ever-evolving workforce, managers will need to employ different aspects of each main style depending on the people who make up their teams. 

More traditional forms of leadership which rely on authority and experience are considered to be transactional, according to the Institute for PR. In these cases, employees are recognised for their high performance with tangible rewards such as pay rises or cash bonuses. Also known as authoritative leadership, these techniques depend on formalised processes that may be at odds with the flexible and changeable nature of the modern organisation. 

The alternative is known as transformational leadership, and is essentially the polar opposite of methods that rely on authority to guide individuals. Instead, transformational leaders use charisma and the pursuit of shared values to drive motivation and performance in their employees. 

Another key aspect of this leadership style is a genuine connection between managers and employees that relies on both empathy and relationship building abilities. 

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How do leadership styles affect different generations?

There is no right way to lead a group of people, but there are guiding principles that managers can pick up on to better understand the needs of their employees. Leading on from the Maritz research on differing motivations across generational boundaries, it's clear that each age group is going to respond to leadership styles in their own unique manner. 

In its own survey, Deloitte found that millennials prefer leaders and employers that share similar values to them, allowing them to create stronger bonds. Based on this, transformational leadership styles are more appropriate for this age group. On the other hand, older generations put more stock in authority, and therefore connect with transactional styles better. 

Published by: LMIT