The current workforce is a daunting place for employees, especially young ones.

They have already spent much of their fledgling careers navigating one of the worst global economic crises in history and, in doing so, been forced to learn the value of being nimble, adaptable and committed — the hard way. But while the new generation may be flexible and accustomed to change, a new challenge is fast approaching: Stepping up to supervision.

From buddy to boss

The step up to manager has always been a big one. Taking on new assignments, learning how to delegate, shifting from being a buddy to being a boss — any one of these transitions is a handful.

However, with nearly a third (28 per cent) of the workforce in Singapore over the age of 50 (according to the Ministry of Manpower), a wave of impending retirements and a restricted ability to hire new employees, it is a challenge many Gen Y employees are likely to experience in the next couple of years.

In fact, changes in the workplace, specifically the recession’s mantra of “do more with less”, have already thrust some new managers in Singapore into pivotal roles without lengthy on-boarding periods and for many, it has been too much to handle.

This may be why according to AchieveGlobal’s consultants, who work extensively with leading Singapore-based firms, more employees in the country are turning down promotions to managerial positions. For these people, the difficulty of the job outweighs any excitement or pride they might feel in getting promoted.

The new realities

Employees transitioning to managers in today’s business environment must orient themselves to three challenging new realities:

* A diverse and increasingly frustrated workforce,

* Constantly changing job duties,

* Increasing demands from their firm.

These realities have raised the stakes considerably, cut down on the margin for error, and made the job of managing people much more challenging.

Great expectations

New managers also face the challenge of becoming accustomed to their business’s new expectations of them.

Besides effective delegation and quality control, managers must also motivate others, adapt to new and challenging situations (and help others do the same), understand the company’s goals to determine work priorities, establish a productive relationship with C-level executives and adhere to processes.

So how can Gen Y prepare for the overwhelming realities and challenges of rising to management?

First-time managers must incorporate three critical hallmarks into their efforts as they guide the work of others:

1. Building personal credibility

Organisations have become less hierarchical, which has led to positional authority being less of a hallmark of leadership than personal credibility.

Personal credibility, however, is neither an attitude nor quality. It is a perception others form of you, based on their assessment of your actions over time. To earn respect, new managers must show respect — a daily effort that builds trust and supports long-term collective efforts.

When managers admit that they don’t know everything, leverage the experience of their team, give others credit when it’s due, follow through on their commitments, and work hard to remove obstacles for their work group, their credibility will thrive.

2. Activating team commitment 

The dawn of the new business realities (outlined above), the increasingly competitive business environment and lingering financial pressures from the global economic crisis mean organisations cannot succeed simply by maintaining business as usual.

Creativity and extra effort are required on the part of every employee, from the CEO all the way down. Successful managers know how to activate their employees’ energy and dedication.

An effective new manager inspires and focuses energy and creativity by setting goals that team members see as worthwhile, by showing the team how their work fits into the bigger picture, and by establishing and responding to clear performance objectives.

He not only delegates simple tasks but includes employees in idea-generating and decision-making — letting them feel a sense of ownership of the collective work.

Fully committed employees will use their own ingenuity and dedication to “go the extra mile” to reach organisational goals.

The manager, can therefore spend less time giving directions and making sure everyone is doing their job, and more time on higher priorities.

3. Engaging senior management support

It is natural for novice managers to focus on their teams. Successful supervisors, however, know that without a solid relationship with their managers, they can’t count on the support they need to achieve
results.

Managing upward is vital to supervisory success — not just pleasing the boss, but establishing an alliance between partners. New supervisors can achieve this bond by ensuring that they understand what’s important to their managers and actively supporting it.

They should also — wherever possible — make a concerted effort to go to their managers with solutions, not just problems, and proactively keep their manager up-to-date on any current or potential issues.

Whether in person, on the phone or via e-mail, maintaining ongoing dialogue with senior management is critical.

Future foundation

As long as change continues as a dominant theme, managers will need to rely on the three hallmarks of success. These will give first-time managers the traction they need to hit the ground running without losing their balance.