At every company, leadership’s central challenge is the same: balancing here-and-now priorities with future planning. Frankly, it’s a juggling act few leaders succeed at.
According to Harvard research published last summer, CEOs worldwide spend just 4% of their work time on operational planning. Compare that to 25% spent on business unit reviews, 25% on interpersonal relationships, and 16% on the organization’s culture.
The result of that imbalance, unfortunately, is more imbalance: By spending so little of their time planning today, leaders inadvertently make it tougher to manage their time tomorrow.
The only way to break the cycle? Know the prevailing trends, and start planning for them.
The leadership trends of 2019
Although trends like remote work march on, five fresh ones are shaping the way company leaders work:
1. Executive roles are being outsourced
No longer are blue-collar roles at the center of the contracting trend. Corporations are looking to agencies for outsourced CMO, CISO, and CFO services, largely because of how time-consuming it can be to find, train, and retain leadership talent. C-level employees take nearly twice as long, at 71 days, to find and hire than the average worker. At the same time, tenure across the c-suite is down to a few years.
Taken together, those trends mean that leaders can expect to begin their next executive search sooner rather than later. When that time comes, they can choose to vet either agencies or individuals. Although the choice of an agency is an important one, rarely does it take leaders more than two months to make.
2. Empathy is gaining recognition as a core competency
There’s a reason productivity tools discuss empathy: Understanding and connecting with others’ emotions is an increasingly large part of leaders’ time. Without empathy, it’s tough to read the emotional climate of an organization, which affects everything from employee productivity to culture-building to retention.
Although empathy can be built in many ways, the best ones might be the simplest: Share a meal. Read a novel. Indulge your curiosity about who the fresh faces are in your office. Those might be time-consuming activities, but they also promote stronger relationships — something no leader can succeed without.
3. Open-door policies could be dying
Employee management companies like 15Five are calling out open-door policies for what they are: leadership theater. Under an open-door policy, the responsibility is on the employee to approach leaders with feedback. 15Five points out that such policies provide an air of transparency but rarely result in leaders who are more receptive to their team’s concerns.
True leaders are proactive. One-on-one meetings may take time to schedule and conduct — but they also communicate respect and appreciation. Considering that two in three employees say they’d quit if they didn’t feel appreciated, up from 51 percent in 2012, managers can’t afford not to make time for one-on-ones.
4. Age diversity is increasing
Between 2011 and 2016, the number of working Americans aged 65 or older grew by more than a third. Nine million seniors might not sound like much across a workforce of 162 million, but consider what it means: A significant number of teams have members more than four decades apart in age.
Aside from the additional challenge of creating cohesion on an age-diverse team, leaders need different strategies to motivate members of different generations. Boomers value monetary rewards but also peer recognition; Generation X wants flexibility; millennials are looking for stock options and feedback; and the incoming generation is interested in social rewards like mentorship.
At least once a year, hold a session with each group to retool their generation-specific engagement strategy. Set aside time weekly for engagement work like provision of feedback and perks.
5. Employee engagement tools are booming
One bright spot in the time-management picture? By Capterra’s count, leaders now have access to almost 350 employee engagement platforms. Although engagement software can’t replace human managers, it can drastically reduce the time required to, say, share peer recognition.
Invest the time to test and select engagement tools that work with your team. InvolveSoft helps leaders set up corporate volunteering events. ProHabits is a training program that promotes behavioral change. Remesh collects employee feedback, while DeskAlert lets leaders send pop-up notifications.
Leadership may not be a tech-based discipline, but it’s changing like one. Like it or not, leaders will soon be spending more time managing, building relationships with, and engaging their teams. Thankfully, there’s a host of new agencies and tools out there to help them do it.
Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft, entrepreneur and a writer for various business publications.