Steel Sombreros, Choosing a Life Partner and Desk Slaves

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Agencies are going to need to be super flexible to compete for the best talent was the message from an Hanson Search / The Work Crowd sponsored panel discussion I chaired yesterday at the Ivy Club on the topic of the Future of the Workforce.

The panel, Alice Weightman, CEO Hanson Search and The Work Crowd; start-up specialist Bindi Karia and corporate Government Relations specialist Liz Kanter, tackled a range of subjects from flexible working, through leadership and culture to managing millennials.

Three areas stood out for me as particularly pertinent for agencies:

  1. Choosing a life partner – Alice recounted a client conversation that suggested that recruitment is not dis-similar to selecting a life partner, in that you can select on the basis of looks but these change over the years; on the basis of wealth but this comes and goes, or on the basis of social status but this fluctuates. The very best way is to select on compatibility and trust.  So when you are considering luring in that heavy hitter with share options and a significant pay rise are you really laying the foundations for a productive relationship?
  2. Steel sombreros – what is the role of good management? Bindi was pretty clear that it was to provide a steel sombrero to protect the team from negative internal and external influences so that they get on and do the job to the best of their abilities. A role that I often found myself playing in both network and independent agencies.
  3. Desk slaves – the discussion following the panel highlighted the challenges of managing millennials, who often bring an entirely different approach to their careers from their managers.  The considered opinion was that one of the success factors is not to try and chain them to a desk. Flexible working has its challenges but when implemented well allows managers to focus on outputs rather than inputs and to move away from traditional presenteeism culture.

 I fully appreciate that flexible working is a challenge to introduce and requires considerable management time. But if your competitors are offering it, and the best talent wants to work that way, you may have little choice, and it is better to be a wolf than a sheep in this case. (I hope to be addressing the whole topic of flexible working in more depth in a future workshop).

So management flexibility will be a big part of the future of successful people management and is likely to raise issues for both line managers, MDs/CEOs and of course HR teams. But it also offers exciting new opportunities for agencies to bring together the very best talent to meet client needs – even if they don’t sit in the same office.