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Challenging perspectives on traditional people management ideas

How reshaping traditional ideas within people management could help us rebuild the future.

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A chance for change

To say the future of work is a hot topic right now would be a vast understatement. It’s a talking point on the lips of business leaders the world over – the pandemic has brought about a great deal of change.

As we navigate the situation, we recently reached out to our network of clients across STEM. And 75% of them told us they were still actively hiring. There’s a real opportunity for business leaders to re-model their infrastructure for the better.

It would be fair to say that when the pandemic first hit, the biggest conversations in a professional context were centered around home working. How can we ensure global connectivity? What does this mean for health and wellbeing? Can this really work on a long-term basis?

These questions are all still valid. But as we begin to re-adjust there are other areas we should explore if we’re to create more effective professional environments in the long-term.

As we move forward, I believe that one of the key drivers for positive change is to give your people more autonomy.

Autonomy is critical – but support is necessary

First and foremost – I don’t believe in micromanagement. Different teams work in different ways, but as a leader, I’ve always believed that trust is the foundation of any professional relationship. I have to trust the people I work with to excel without me constantly questioning their every move – this doesn’t mean support shouldn’t be offered. Support is critical to success, but it’s key to achieve a healthy balance here.

At SThree we operate across numerous specialist brands that provide staffing and career solutions within multiple STEM industries including life sciences, technology, and engineering. Because of our commitment to first-rate training, our recruitment consultants very quickly become specialists within their area and gain a deep understanding of the staffing landscape within their niche markets.

Every day these recruitment consultants are speaking to candidates with highly specialist skills – while our managers have a responsibility to offer continuous support, we need to respect the specialist knowledge and skills our recruitment consultants have established.

I believe that – as leaders – it’s our job to empower our teams rather than monitor them.

Removing hierarchical structures

Giving people the tools to succeed, empowering them, and then allowing them to flourish is something that’s especially close to my heart. And this is why we’ve made the decision to give our people more autonomy than ever before.

Across our French teams we’ve decided to remove some of the hierarchical structures that were in place in favour of more collective decision making.

This model invites decisions to be made through a peer process - there’s less of a focus on one individual manager approving ideas. Instead, the team will share ideas, apply their expertise, discuss the best approach, learn from their peers, and determine the most effective solution together.

For this model to work you have to trust, support, and effectively train your people.

Empowerment means offering the right skills for success

We can’t just let the person who shouts loudest win. As leaders, if we’re going to give our people more authority, it’s our job to ensure they are ready to make decisions, defend their choices, and offer their peers feedback in a professional and respectful manner. Training focused on soft skills can often be overlooked, but in the future of work, this needs to be a priority.

It’s critical that our people feel empowered to take ownership of their own performance but also have the confidence to challenge their colleagues in order to build a stronger team. We simply have to invest in the development of soft skills if they’re to be responsible for both individual and collective performance.

And upskilling is critical at all levels. As a leader, If I’m going to give our people more autonomy, I need to re-adjust, re-evaluate, and ensure I’m investing in my own development too. Otherwise, I am failing them before I even begin.

Building a better future of work

Our recruitment consultants are given more power to make more significant decisions, be proactive, and contribute to bigger and larger discussions. This is highly impactful – not just for the career progression of the individual - but for the success of the business. Removing these traditional barriers gives people from all levels of seniority more opportunities to contribute to important decisions. And I think this can only be a good thing.

If big decisions are to be made only by those sat in a boardroom, it’s tough to paint a real picture of what’s happening on the ground. But by including those who understand the needs of our candidates and clients – we can make more informed decisions that will ultimately benefit our customers and our business.

I strongly believe that this isn’t just the right decision for our own people, but for the businesses and professionals we serve.

Changing perspectives

We have to keep challenging our own perspective. If we want to build a workforce that’s fit for the future, we have to think differently and always consider areas for improvement. Now, more than ever before, it’s time to shake off old habits and ways of working that simply aren’t conducive to productivity and long-term success.

Forcing ourselves to re-discover, re-imagine, and re-shape will help us to build the future of work. And I believe that empowering our people – people at all levels – will be a critical step.

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