All-rounders needed to manage future: Training: a broader approach, with the emphasis on communication skills, will be a prerequisite for tomorrow's executives

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The Independent Online
MANAGEMENT training and development in the UK is undergoing a sea change.

Tomorrow's managers will be all-rounders, able to work across functional divides and national boundaries. Interpersonal skills will be important as never before, people will have bigger, broader jobs, and progression will be lateral rather than upwards.

As corporate futures become less certain, employability rather than employment will be the issue. Job changes will be more radical and frequent.

Paul Evans, professor of organisational behaviour at Insead, the international business school outside Paris, says: 'Most companies will invest in training and development only when they can see an immediate pay-off for the job. The more enlightened companies see a broader training as being increasingly crucial.'

Moreover, management development is increasingly a joint responsibility between individual and manager. While the company must provide the climate for development and offer support, the onus is on the individual to seek and take advantage of opportunities to develop him or herself.

According to Andrew Wilson, assistant director of research at the Ashridge Management Research Group, 'If you can't adapt and change, you might be pushed out in the drive to reduce headcount.'

And since the days have passed when organisations offered jobs for life, individuals must acquire skills to arm them for the marketplace and equip them for career changes. A 'portfolio' career - embracing, for example, working for a company, a consultancy and a voluntary organisation - will become the norm.

'These days, your average 28-year-old FD won't necessarily end his life as an FD,' says Mr Wilson. And while specialisations won't die out, he predicts that the core competencies of an organisation will change and a greater proportion of people will fall outside them.

Professor Evans believes that in some ways the pendulum has swung from one extreme to another. For example, he is sceptical about the 'big British movement' towards trying to define management competencies: 'In these times of change, when flexibility is the key, it is very difficult to establish a blueprint.'

But how do you train and develop people for this brave new world where structures and specialisms have been replaced by a more fluid arrangement, where progress depends on initiative, business acumen and interpersonal and team-working skills? Job rotation and special assignments will become the order of the day, with managers switching around the growing proliferation of joint ventures, licensing agreements and partnerships between customers, suppliers and possibly even competitors.

Ashridge's Mr Wilson is sceptical about the development potential of overseas assignments, since people are less willing to decamp these days and many companies are also learning the benefits of having overseas projects staffed by nationals. But language skills and an understanding of other cultures will become more important, he says, pointing out that around half of all multinational joint ventures fail within 10 years.

Secondment to voluntary organisations and the community is also gaining currency as a management development technique. David Hemsworth, communications director at Action Employees in the Community (affiliated to Business in the Community), explains that his organisation has developed a particular form of secondment specifically designed to broaden management experience and development. This typically involves short-term focused and project-based assignments of about one day a week for three months, designed to achieve a specific objective.

An organisation called Prowess is a keen advocate of placing fast-trackers as non-executive directors on the boards of other organisations, such as health authority trusts, to broaden their experience. It has gained the support of such companies as Cable & Wireless, Grand Metropolitan, Kingfisher and Norwich Union.

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