Is technology responsible for a decline in leadership & management skills?

In today’s workplace flexible and remote working is now an accepted practice. The benefits are obvious, reduced office space, happier, more productive workers and a better work/life balance are to name but a few.

The whole concept of remote working is underpinned by technology. Bring Your Own Device (utilising your own personal IT to complete business tasks rather than using company issued equipment) and collaboration software enables workers to carry out work tasks regardless of device, location or time.  

On the face of it this practice appears to have very few negatives. But if we delve deeper what impact does ‘out of office’ working have on the leadership skills of today’s manager?

Face-to-face interaction

In a physical office environment human interactions occur hundreds of times a day. Subtle changes in body language can demonstrate when something is urgent, wrong or frustrating. Likewise it can be used to convey praise and thanks. These interactions are often diluted or non-existent when working remotely.

Coaching and mentoring

One-to-one or one-to-many coaching and mentoring is a staple of large corporate organisations. On the job training and problem solving overseen by peers is a key development technique used to enhance and develop an individual’s skills, knowledge or performance. Although it could be argued that advances in technology and digital resources aid this process, it could be deemed that they have replaced the process all together.

Performance management

Subsequently, managing under-performing staff has again been a skill requirement of business leaders and managers alike. This process requires multiple touch points between the assessor (manager) and the employee including goal setting, monitoring, review and reporting. Traditionally this has been a people management skill that leadership teams had to implement, now some of this process can be automated which minimises the involvement and required skills of management teams. 

Issue resolution

Akin to performance management, issue resolution is process that requires multiple touch points between identification of the issue and resolution of the problem. Constant review and dialogue is required in order to keep all parties informed of the status of the issue. Escalation points needs to be established and explained. Management of this process coupled with integration of new frameworks to mitigate future issues often requires a blend of human ‘wetware’ and analytical tools. By placing an over reliance on one of those two inputs may yield undesired outcomes.

Upskilling management teams

If left unchecked, the management skills illustrated above will continue to erode. Off the shelf training providers are able to provide refresher courses and material that helps highlight changes in legislation and best practise from a macro level. The flaw in this approach is that these courses aren’t tailored to the bespoke working practices of individual businesses. Subsequently large organisations are investing in bringing these challenges management, coupled with changes in the work dynamic to life through the provision of live drama based training. This approach encapsulates real working environments and frameworks which allows leadership teams to enhance and adapt their skills rather than leaving them to become outdated and obsolete.