employee navigating a maze

Contributed by Lauren Liacouras, BSCAI

Over the course of an unpredictable three years, one thing has remained constant: change is inevitable. Today, business leaders juggle myriad considerations when facing challenges within their industry. The demands of someone serving in an executive level position continue to grow as new obstacles arise. 

Associate Professor of Management Practice and Global Executive Summit Keynote Speaker Jonathan Trevor discussed these critical considerations for business leaders as they adapt to continuous change in the industry, one of which is broadening one’s skillset.   

“There's this idea of the ‘multi-everything leader’ that I've talked about in the past and that I've written about. It's this idea that to really understand what's happening in the environment, you need to be multidisciplinary,” says Trevor. “You can't just be the pure specialist in one area; you need to understand the full gambit of everything that's happening and how they connect, especially in different regions of the world. It’s also important to be able to conceptualize both the short term and the long term. You have to be thinking about the future.” 

External factors excluded, Trevor alludes to additional challenges affecting businesses in today’s climate, specifically relative to the shifting global landscape. 

“I think that part of the challenge is understanding what's important amidst all the potential outliers. For example, if I think about building services, do we have the same pressures as financial services, or for that matter, professional services or universities,” asks Trevor. “In terms of general themes, I think, globalization, and now increasingly regionalization, are majorly important. You can look at Brexit, which represents polarization and a divergence of interests, as well as the war in Ukraine. I think the other big one is technology. We have to ask ourselves if we are really in control of how technology is catalyzing change within in our industry.” 

Businesses strive for longevity, which since the COVID-19 pandemic has been in flux. Trevor asserts that the best-aligned organizations consistently perform at a high level long-term, regardless of their industry.   

“Alignment means that organizations have a clear purpose that's communicated and valued by their stakeholders, both internal and external, including customers, regulators and communities at large,” says Trevor. “They have clear strategies to fulfill those purposes and a strategy that considers what customers want. They’re also mindful about how those preferences are changing, but equally seek to differentiate from competitors. Typically, highly aligned organizations are much more purposeful and efficient overall.” 

One of the most pressing challenges remains among an organization’s employees and ensuring staff remain on the same page as their business owners. As working arrangements change within certain industries, avoiding internal conflict stands to be exceptionally important. 

“The simplistic argument is that employers want their employees to work as hard as possible for the least amount of money, and on the flip side, workers want to work as little as possible for the most amount of money,” says Trevor. “But establishing and maintaining high employee engagement to be capable of performing the organization’s purpose well is as critical today as it has ever been — in fact, it is harder than ever before. Tensions can arise due to an organization’s dynamic environment, internal and external. So, it really comes down to managing that tension effectively and ensuring your employees are performing at the highest level.” 

In a similar vein, executives face the challenge of keeping their employees motivated as the working landscape continues to shift. According to Trevor, it often depends on individual line managers, as well as the organization itself. 

“I think it's wrong to see employment as transactional or merely a transaction of selling one's labor for monetary value. I think there are more things that go into the employment relationship now than ever before,” says Trevor. “I do think it's about creating that transparency, that fairness, that sense of procedural justice and equitable justice, as well paying somebody appropriately for the work that they do. Additionally, the day-to-day execution is also important. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. I think the greatest thing that any organization can do is to invest in the quality of its people management, as people managers uphold the daily work of an organization. People need to be reminded that they should care about their work because they are part of a team. That makes a big difference.”