Toward the end of 2014, Bersin by Deloitte released its annual Global Human Capital Trends report. As always, the research contained important data and predictions about the future of the staffing industry. Yet the top issue — a crisis of sorts — stopped being discussed soon after the document’s publication. That problem was a deficit in effective leadership. The multigenerational composition and demands of modern business further compound the situation. As the workforce continues to blend and diversify, bringing in an MSP is one of the best ways to gain immediate access to leaders who have the proven competencies to drive success.
The Looming Leadership Drought
According to studies performed by polling leader Gallup, less than one-third of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs. The figure gets even worse when Millennials are analyzed independently. They represent the least satisfied group, at 28.9 percent. For all disengaged workers, the root cause seems to come from their impression of management. Because of the constant pressure placed on companies to innovate and outpace their competition, much of management’s focus is on achieving goals and fueling growth. That means not enough attention is directed at talent. The result is a lose-lose scenario with a lot of chaos.
Mature leaders are considering retirement. Those from Gen X are fighting to keep their strongholds, and few plan on departing their roles anytime soon. So that leaves millennial professionals wallowing in a readiness gap: they’re not being trained to take on leadership positions because managers aren’t developing succession plans or making room from others to advance.
The problem is so pronounced that 86 percent of the respondents in Deloitte’s study called the looming leadership drought an “urgent” concern.
The High Cost of Poor Leadership
Solid leadership requires introspection, strategy, patience and focus — all attributes that suffer in this era of time poverty. In short, hiring managers and decision makers are stretched too thin. The rapid flux of economic factors and evolving technologies often distracts them from the real power behind business success — people.
What is the impact of poor leadership on business? Based on the findings of Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Christopher Stanton, the effect is huge. Stanton and his colleagues conducted a research experiment in which supervisors were rotated on an ongoing basis, so workers experienced different leaders every few months. Naturally, each manager’s style, approach and skills varied. And those characteristics produced dramatic changes in performance.
At the conclusion of the study, Stanton’s team discovered that replacing a low-performing boss (in the bottom 10 percent) with a highly effective boss (in the top 10 percent) had the same effect as adding another worker to a nine-person group.
The Workforce Has Changed — Leadership Must Change With It
One of the biggest paradigm shifts occurring in the staffing industry is the expanding presence of a blended workforce within organizations of all shapes and sizes. As the categories of workers grow more disparate and, at the same time, more integrated into a single business environment, the process of managing their needs, expectations and roles also becomes increasingly complex. Time poverty and the introduction of new types of contingent workers are weighing down corporate leaders. It makes more sense now to consider the power an MSP delivers for managing this new labor force.
The beauty of an MSP program for time-strapped, overwhelmed clients is that it unifies technology, people and processes. MSPs bring the humanization of human resources through careful data analysis, tracking and reporting of performance, compliance with labor regulations, cost containment, and a high-touch approach that cultivates interactions and engagement with talent. More crucially, MSPs and their staffing partners have the time to focus exclusively on the needs of talent.
In his recent article for Forbes, Glenn Llopis points out the major leadership competencies that prevent the rise of “a workplace that is unproductive and runs the risk of losing top talent and customer loyalty in the marketplace.” Fortunately for clients, MSPs have mastered these leadership skills and can bring the benefit of their expertise to programs on the brink of chaos.
Originality. “Many leaders continue to manage by the templates of old and cannot evolve to be the leaders their company needs,” Llopis write. “Those templates have stripped them of their identities and left them uncertain about who they are and how to face change.” Yet even for progress-oriented business leaders, the bulk of their attention is targeted at change on an institutional rather than organizational level: they’re seeking new ways to innovate products, increase service delivery capabilities and expand their customer base. That leaves little time for them to develop their workforces.
For MSPs, progress means creating original ways to improve talent processes. That includes strategies for resource demand planning, the use of analytics for more informed decisions, enhanced onboarding experiences, skills development for talent, new automation advances, social recruiting and continuous improvement initiatives.
Courage. “Most leaders,” Llopis says, “would rather talk about what needs to change or improve, rather than roll-up their sleeves and take action.” MSPs thrive in uncertainty and tackling workforce issues head on. Our responses to hiring managers, colleagues and client stakeholders influence our workers’ perceptions. If we seem miserable, angry or combative, we instill a negative image of the client company’s culture. These impressions can shape attitudes that lead to poor performance or substandard retention rates. Top MSP program managers understand the rigors of the job from the worker’s perspective. They exhibit a vulnerability and openness that instills confidence in their people.
MSPs become participants in the conversation, not lecturers. They not only demonstrate their commitment and support, they position themselves to gain fresh perspectives that could lead to new innovations, more efficient methods, continuous improvements and more. They also discover the unique attributes, skills and characteristics of their people, which can inform more strategic placement decisions for current and future assignments. MSP program managers engage in honest, self-aware and humble discussions about the needs and concerns of their talent. They help their people focus on finding opportunities in existing challenges.
Diversity. As the world and the workforce become more diverse, empathy is essential. For MSPs and their staffing curators, diversity has long been a motivating force behind their solutions. As an area of such concentration, participants in an MSP program turn out to be some of the most effective leaders in creating empathetic and caring work cultures.
- They help talent expand their perspectives to consider people outside their circles, making them better listeners, team members and collaborators.
- They develop teams with a broader variety of attitudes and thinking, which spurs innovation and new methods for optimizing work.
- They encourage talent to look at people equally, to enforce integrity, to promote adoption and different opinions, and to take appropriate action when discrimination occurs.
- They build talent with a big picture view of business and their world — exceptional workers who are compelled to “do with” others, not merely “do for” others, to conquer the challenges facing companies as a diverse and unified team with a shared vision.
Open Minds. In his interviews with the best and worst leaders, Llopis observes that those who lack “the ability to reinvent themselves are those that get caught in the traps of complacency.” When a politician changes his or her position, even when that departure in stance is rational and necessary, opponents seize the opportunity to deride them as “flip-floppers.” And over the past 15 years, that attitude has influenced many people to avoid making different decisions. Yet without remaining open to course corrections, we doom ourselves to a sense of complacency, inertia and, ultimately, stagnation.
The best MSP program managers possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit — likely because they support different businesses and industries throughout their careers. These experiences inform their decisions and transform intelligence into wisdom through lessons learned. As a result, they become amazingly adept at optimizing their resources and forging strong bonds with their talent and clients. This alignment leads to powerful shifts in positive momentum.
Accountability. The key to management success is holding ourselves and those around us accountable for our actions. Great MSPs hold all members of the team accountable for their agreed upon deliverables. And that includes their own program managers and personnel. The program can only thrive as a united front, with all team members in alignment. Despite good intentions, MSPs that attempt to resolve issues or fix problems alone — or try to displace accountability for issues on others — can have these efforts backfire in ways that erode the foundations of the overall program. A proactive and forward-looking approach ensures that fires can be spotted and smothered before they erupt into infernos. Elite MSPs establish a clear sense of purpose, direction, support and connectivity.
- They instill a detailed understanding of how each participant contributes to the overall value and success of the organization’s mission.
- They present a comprehensive list of cascading priorities and strategies to achieve goals.
- They define each party’s responsibilities and their own accountability as managers of the process.
- They solicit input and offer transparent communications about objectives, opportunities and challenges.
Modern Leadership for Modern Talent
More than big paychecks and fancy titles, today’s professionals seek the same sense of connection in their vocations as they do in their personal lives: interactions that foster feelings of belonging, accomplishment, shared missions, mentoring, and opportunities to develop. As the melting of the modern workforce continues to blend, now is the time to enlist MSPs and their staffing partners to help lead the talent who will drive your organization’s success.