A cull of "old-fashioned" technophobe UK middle management is looming, according to a newly published report by Henley Management College.
The research found that that too many managers have failed to adapt to the dramatic changes brought about by the introduction of technology in today's workplace. Such managers face exposure unless they change their techniques and improve their skills.
The problem has been identified in a report entitled Managing Tomorrow's Worker which found that the growing number of flexible workers in the UK has exposed ignorance and resistance among the UK's middle management.
Many more organisations now have flexible working policies which mean that managers have to work in different ways in order to effectively manage staff.
The research noted that team working and communications become significantly more difficult for managers with the trend towards flexible working.
Flexible working was also found to require significantly more trust on the part of a manager, leading to a shift from the more traditional 'controlling' style.
According to the study, the key organisational advantages of flexible working are staff attraction and retention, improvement in work/life balance, higher productivity, reduction in commuting and lower stress levels, despite people often working longer hours.
Peter Thomson, director of the Future Work Forum at Henley Management College, and author of the report, said: "British management is at a significant crossroads. For years, managers have been used to managing people simply by watching over them.
"With the rise in flexible working, that style will have to change completely or we face the prospect of managers holding back the tide of flexible working, like a modern-day King Canute."
Technology plays a crucial role in enabling flexible working and management change must go hand in hand with IT change, according to Thomson, who believes that IT will be central to rethinking the way that work is done.
He urged IT managers to play their part by engaging in a dialogue with business managers and HR departments to make sure they fully understand the working culture issues and training needs that will affect the design and use of technology.
The report noted that the booming economy, and the consequent shortage of talented replacements, has so far enabled these managers to hide. But any downturn will result in their lack of skills being uncovered.
The research, conducted between February 2004 and March 2005 on behalf of Microsoft, aimed to find out how workers of the future, equipped with the latest IT innovations, can and should be managed.
Alistair Baker, managing director at Microsoft UK, said: "IT is fundamentally changing the way we work. This creates opportunities for business, but also requires people to adapt if they want to take advantage of them."
Analysis of the Managing Tomorrow's Worker data is now complete and a final report will be published shortly on the Henley Management College website here.
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