Managers Must Walk Their Talk

It is now accepted that young people entering the job market today will have many vocations in their working life. Experts suggested that up to five different careers will be “quite normal”.
The constantly changing structure of organisations and the ongoing movement of people to increase efficiency and improve performance, means individuals can no longer expect lifetime of employment with one organisation.
Careers in future may well include spells of unemployment between periods of stable employment, self-employment and self-development. To survive in today’s changing employment marketplace, individuals must maintain their “employability” and one qualification will not necessarily be enough.
Training and development should become lifelong process. Individuals who want to remain employed won’t be able to sit on their laurels, putting store by the degree or professional qualification they obtain at the outset of their careers. The key to success is continuing professional development. Those who fail to act or react will have only themselves to blame for not making it onto job shortlist. Now is the time to care for your career.
Continuing professional development should be planned and managed on an ongoing basis. It involves the commitment and the resources of the individual, the employer and the professional institutions. It includes the elements of planned professional and personal development, the acquisition of knowledge, the enhancement of skills and regular assessment.
The advent of portfolio careers, as envisaged by management guru Charles Handy, emphasises the need to maintain and improve upon current levels of competence and to keep up-to-date with change – including an understanding of technological advances, environment issues, economic conditions, legislative changes and the pressures of increased competition.
Individuals should be prepared to change career direction. They might, for instance, have to undertake several simultaneous roles, on part-time or contract basis.
Research recently undertaken by the Institute of Management in the UK confirms that flexible employment, with particular emphasis on the use of part-time, temporary or contract staff, is now integral to organisational strategy. Almost nine out of every 10 major employers use part-time or temporary workers with 70 percent contracting out non-core operations. This confirms the trend away from the traditional patterns of full-time core employment towards wholly flexible employment market.
Clearly there is need for professional bodies, such as the New Zealand Institute of Management, to prepare individuals for the career challenges that lie ahead. Managers should anticipate change, learning to thrive on it, not fear it. The institute can guide people in the right direction, but it cannot make them do what they don’t want to do.
Managers are sometimes their own worst enemies, failing to practise what they preach. Too many fail to consider their own developmental needs, while insisting that their staff undergo regular training and development activities. NZIM consistently encourages the concept of lifelong learning at every level of management.
This approach is embodied in the institute’s “Ascent of Management” programme which provides staircase with clear pathways for continued management development from secondary school to degree.
If New Zealand is to keep within sight of competing economies it must, as nation, encourage managers at all levels to undertake continued professional development.
The 2001 World Competitive Yearbook (WCY) positions New Zealand at 21st out of the 49 economies reviewed. We rank behind the USA (1), Singapore (2), Canada (9), Australia (11) and UK (19) but just ahead of France (25), Japan (26), Malaysia (29) and Italy (32).
This is the world’s most renowned and comprehensive study on the competitiveness of nations and analyses and ranks the ability of country to provide an environment that sustains the competitiveness of enterprises. In the latest survey 49 economies were studied using 286 criteria. The report is synthesis of “hard” data from international, regional and national sources as well as “soft” data from the WCY Executive Opinion Survey among some 3600 business executives worldwide. The WCY aggregates data over five-year period, and 35 partner institutes help ensure its accuracy.
There is growing recognition in business and government that the only way New Zealand can improve its international competitiveness is through improved management performance. This, of course, leads back to the basic management programmes on offer. An international survey initiated by the International University Consortium for Executive Education shows, not surprisingly, that 96 percent of respondents who attended university or business school open executive programme in the 1998/99 academic year found that their learning experience contributed to their personal growth and to that of their company.
The 319 respondents from various countries saw marked improvement in their leadership capabilities. More specifically:
• 92 percent are better prepared for new organisational challenges;
• 90 percent make better management decisions;
• 55 percent implemented new ways to reduce costs and save money;
• 67 percent adopted different strategies to grow their business and increase its revenues;
• 90 percent are more effective in developing managers and their leadership capability.
“The survey provides valuable measurement of the impact of management education,” said IMD president, Peter Lorange. “It reinforces what we, as major provider of international executive programmes, ascertain from our numerous corporate clients and alumni. The results are particularly significant since number of universities/business schools from Europe and America were involved.” For more information and to order the survey go to www.personneldecisions.com.
Hand in glove with the business school programmes is continued professional development. Participation cannot, however, be forced on anyone – it must be voluntarily undertaken. Managers must take responsibility for assessing their own development needs. Clearly, individual needs vary according to personal circumstances; some arise through changed job roles, others surface through appraisals or self-assessments.
Individual needs can be satisfied through variety of activities. But one of the most common misconceptions is that continued professional development is all about study inputs – attending lectures, courses and meetings. Professional development can, of course, involve intensive training courses but, informal and on-the-job activities are often equally, if not more, effective.
Some professional bodies have chosen to define continued professional development based on the input concept of learning with points allocated for attendance. However, course attendance does not demonstrate development; it provides no evidence of increased knowledge.
The New Zealand Institute of Management believes that wider range of developmental activities should be undertaken, with emphasis on outcomes that can be quantified and assessed. The precise content and pace of development can only be decided upon by individuals, often in conjunction with their employer.
The institute has for some time been working on programme to more effectively meet managers’ ongoing professional development needs. An announcement outlining these developments will be made shortly.

David Chapman FNZIM is chief executive of NZIM National Office, based in Wellington.

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