Analysing the various forms of management Competencies

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"In today's turbulent world, managing in times of crisis and confusion is becoming a critical skill for managers in all kind of organizations. The shift towards new ways of working, enabled by technology, puts additional demand on today's managers"

Discuss the management competencies (functions and skills) needed to deal with today's turbulent environment, including issues such as:

i) diversity

ii) globalization

iii) rapid change

INTRODUCTION

The changing landscape of the modern business environment has resulted in firms having to adapt to new ways of conducting their businesses. Factors such as rapid changes in technology and consumer demands have increased the need for firms to devise new ways to achieve competitive advantages in order to push their products and services into the consumer market and capture bigger share of the market (Dixon, 2002). Firms which are able to adapt and co-align their marketing strategies with the internal and external market forces are more likely to achieve sustainable competitive advantage and thrive in their businesses (Cavusgil and Zou, 1994).

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Change in the technology of doing businesses can be clearly seen with the use of the internet to conduct sales transactions ((Feher and Towell, 1997). For example, many firms have invested time and effort to make sure that customers can enjoy their products and services through on-line shopping. Most businesses have websites which provide existing and potential customers with product information, on-line shopping options as well as product and services updates to keep customers informed of the latest in their businesses (Lumpkin, 2004). As a result of on-line access, businesses can reach a wider audience all around the globe without having to open branches in other countries.

In order to cope with the changing business environment, companies have to equip their employees with adequate skills and knowledge to counter all the business challenges that they might face. Employees need to have sufficient skills in information technology (IT) so that they can operate the computer and perform on-line operations. They also must be exposed to new ways of doing businesses through training and skill enhancement programs (Markus and Robey, 1988). The new generation of customers expect organisations to be competent to handle on-line enquiries and sales order for customer convenience.

To manage change effectively, organisational managers are expected to employ appropriate management competencies and strategies so that changes within the organisation can take place in tandem with the changes in the business environment (Aladwani, 2001). Managers are expected to be able to take possible actions to counter the impact of change on their organisational operations so as not to interrupt current operations and workflow.

MANAGEMENT COMPETENCIES

Management competencies refer to competencies or abilities required by managers to perform their jobs and address challenges effectively (Wikipedia). Different organisations require various sets of competencies from their managers, depending on the nature of their business and organisational needs. Even managerial positions within one organisation have different competency requirements based on responsibilities and job demands (King et el., 2001). Similarly, managers at different grades or levels within a department need to fulfil certain requirements in order to perform their duties effectively. Competencies such as leadership, communication, teamwork and proactiveness contribute significantly to organisational development (Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements); therefore, managers with such qualities are highly valued by organisations. Successful managers are required to own a wide range of competencies in order to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently.

Some examples of key competencies of successful managers (Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements) are as follows:

Results Focus

Managers who are successful in their job know what are required of them and will be more focussed on achieving the desired results or outcomes. Such managers are able to stay right on track towards delivering the desired results and are less distracted by superficial matters.

Making Change

Changes in the business environment require organisations to adapt to new ways of doing things. Organisational managers must be able to handle changes in their product and service offerings as well as business processes within their organisations effectively. Successful managers will be able to ensure that the required changes take place effectively and in an orderly manner.

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Planning

In order to achieve the best possible outcomes, managers must have the ability to plan their work effectively. Success in planning contributes to achievement of desired results.

Team Development

Managers should be able to foster commendable teamwork in order to perform efficiently. They must be able to manage their team so that team members will contribute their best effort to deliver results. Managers must also create opportunities for development and growth for their team members to keep them motivated when performing their jobs.

Risk Management

Managers should be able to identify risks which can pose as threats in all areas of their work, and act accordingly to manage the risk so that the desired results will not be jeopardised. Successful managers understand the significance of risk management and respond in a proactive manner to reduce the risk.

Decision Making

Successful managers are able to make fast and appropriate decisions in times of crisis so that the right measures can be taken to counter any problems which might surface. Such managers normally will also not hesitate to take responsibility for their actions.

Communication

Communication skill is of utmost importance for managers. They must be able to convey directions accurately and effectively, both orally or in writing, so that their subordinates can carry out their task accordingly. Successful managers are normally effectively communicators.

Customer Service Focus

Managers who are successful in their jobs normally have high regard for excellent customer service, be it internal or external customers. Internal customers can be members of other departments, for example, customers of an IT Manager are the system users within the organisation. External customers are those outside the organisation; for example, customers of a Marketing Manager are the suppliers he/she are servicing.

For the purpose of this assignment, we will look at Malaysian Institute of Management, an authoritative voice in management in Malaysia. MIM aims to deliver management excellence through the promotion of management competency and development in the public and private sectors in Malaysia. The company offers training and development programmes related to management to Malaysian organisations in their quest to uplift the management practices in the country to meet current and future organisational needs. Apart from that, it assists organisations to develop management strategies through its advisory services. MIM also offers membership to individuals and corporate by charging entrance fee and annual subscriptions. Members are updated with the latest in management practices and trends. Here we will analyse how MIM deals with diversity, globalisation and rapid change.

Management Competencies Dealing With Diversity

Due to growing demands in the world today, business organisations have to deal with various types of diversification in order to stay competitive in the market. Many organisations have come up with various ways to achieve competitive advantages to sustain their business and stand out among the crowd (Deaconu, 2007). For Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM), its management has to deal with the following two types of diversification:

1. Product diversity

2. Human resource diversity

Product Diversity

The training industry in a way benefits from organisational business diversification because it creates a gap in organisational training needs. Most organisations require their employees to undergo skills enhancement programmes to cope with changing ways of doing business and modern technological advancement (Varadarajan, 1986). Based on these new needs, MIM expanded its operations from merely being a membership subscription-driven organisation to one which offers training and consultancy services to clients. It has now established itself as a renowned training provider in the area of management.

For the past several years, the management of MIM has increased its product and services to cater to specific needs of its growing clientele base. Owing to changing business scenarios, many organisations have to restructure their business strategies and equip their workforce with new skills, especially in the areas of management, business administration and technology. Thus, MIM also have to look into the new needs and offer training products and services which cater to these needs.

To cope with product diversity in the business, MIM managers have to demonstrate a high degree of planning competency. This management competency is crucial because without proper planning, MIM may not be able to execute its marketing strategies to get the best possible outcomes.

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Planning of Trainers. To illustrate the point, in order for MIM to satisfy client demands, the company has to equip its trainers with the latest in management knowledge and skills. Ensuring that its trainers are well-equipped with such knowledge and skills pose a major challenge to MIM's management because to provide the best to clients, MIM has to be one step ahead of them. Thus, MIM managers have to plan the skills upgrading of its trainers well ahead by anticipating market needs and acting on those needs. To better manage the situation, MIM has drawn a requirement checklist for its trainers. For example, to keep themselves abreast with the latest knowledge in the training industry, all MIM trainers are required to attend at least three international training, conferences or seminars in a year for better exposure of the latest management practices around the globe. Such international exposure will open up the trainers' minds and will provide them a wealth of knowledge when they come back to the country to train others. Some trainers are also required to attend short management courses to further enhance their training skills, depending on their level of experience. Expenses for such trainings and courses will be borne by the company but the trainers will be bonded and will be required to serve MIM for a stipulated period based on the amount of bond. This measure is taken to ensure positive return on investment for MIM on their trainers. In addition, the remuneration for MIM trainers usually commensurate with their level of experiences and skills. Those who passed certain predefined level are normally compensated with a higher remuneration package as a motivating factor (Pung et al. 2008) for long term working relationship with MIM.

Besides that, MIM trainers are also required to acquire at least two international certificates in management training from internationally recognised bodies. Such certification will give good impression of the trainers' skills and capabilities to clients. As an established body in management, MIM has to ensure that its trainers are able to execute training programmes professionally as it will reflect well on the company's image. As a step to gauge feedback from clients, a training evaluation form is given at the end of each training session to be filled by clients who attend MIM's trainings. Feedback gathered through the evaluation form will be analysed to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the trainers involved. Based on the feedback, MIM managers will then communicate with the trainers on whether there is any area that should be improved in order to enhance the training programmes or the trainers' delivery methods. The end result will be an improved package which will satisfy client needs and expectations.

Planning of Products and Services. Apart from managing the trainers, MIM managers also need to demonstrate excellent skills in planning the product and service packages for clients. Earlier on, it was mentioned that MIM has diversified its business to offer more than just membership-related benefits to individuals and corporate bodies. Nowadays MIM has diversified by expanding its scope of business to include training and advisory services in the areas of management and administration. Through such diversification, MIM is better able to increase its income generation potential and penetrate into the corporate market by offering products and services which are suited to their business needs.

In planning for products and services, MIM managers have to be aware of developments in the training industry in order to anticipate new product and service needs. This is achieved through international exposure by attending seminars and conferences local and overseas. MIM also participate in local and international exhibitions where its managers can interact and network with other training providers and study the products and services offered by others in the business. MIM managers are required to demonstrate high competencies in communication and customer service during such exhibitions because it provides excellent opportunities for MIM to introduce its products and services to potential clients. Excellent communication skills will enable the managers to deliver messages clearly and accurately to avoid any misunderstanding. Meanwhile, good customer service will act as a pull factor for clients to deal with MIM.

Workplace Diversity

Diversity at the workplace is an accepted norm based on the Theory of Diversity (Nehring and Puppe, 2002). In any working environment, there are bound to be people of different skills and background blending in the organisational culture (Joshi, Liao and Jackson, 2006). MIM has to ensure that workplace diversity does not hamper operations of the company. In fact, MIM must make diversity works by communicating the importance of respecting the differences that exist in the working environment to its employees. To deal with diversity at the workplace, MIM managers have to demonstrate team development and communication competencies so as to create a workplace environment which promotes learning and respect.

To illustrate this point, MIM's human resource comprised people of different backgrounds in terms of age, race, culture, religion, etc. It can be observed that most of the time, those who share certain similarities will stick to their own groups, for example the staff will group according to their races when they go out for lunch breaks. Therefore, to ensure that this stigma is not practised when executing their jobs, managers play a crucial role to develop team work among the employees.

To address issues pertaining to such differences, MIM managers will have to display excellent communication skills to promote interaction and team work among the employees. They must make each employee realize that even with existing differences, they are all part of a big organisational puzzle and each has an important role to play, and that they must work together to achieve the company objectives.

In MIM, the management organises several engagement programmes to allow employees to interact with one another beyond their normal duties in the office. For example, an inter-departmental Bowling Tournament is held twice a year among MIM employees. Since the winning department are awarded lucrative cash prizes, employees will nominate their best players regardless of race or ethnic backgrounds to form teams for their departments. During the tournament, the rest of the employees will cheer their teams irrespective of who the team members are. Interaction and team work through such programmes will foster closer ties among employees and promote good working relationship as well. Close knit employees will work together to achieve their corporate objectives and this reduces prejudice and stereotype thinking which affects company's productivity.

MIM management also organises a Family Day once a year which brings all employees and their family members together. It is usually a full day of food and fun where employees are able to enjoy themselves and get to know the families of their colleagues. Regular interaction among employees and their families will further strengthen ties and allow them to learn and understand one another's culture diversity and encourage respect for differences among them. This helps promote unity at the workplace and provide a comfortable working environment for everyone.

To sum up, in handling diversity issues, MIM managers have to be open minded and demonstrate high level of planning, team development and communication competencies to achieve desired results.

Management Competencies Dealing With Globalisation

The term globalisation can be defined in various ways but basically it involves the sharing of products, knowledge, services and cultures between countries and people because of an increase in the quantum of economic integration (Todnem, 2005).

With technological advancement that is available in the world today, globalisation resulted in an almost borderless world and enable faster exchange of knowledge and information. According to Roland Robertson in his Theory of Globalisation, globalisation is a broad concept which involves exchange of economy and spread of knowledge.

For example, the internet technology allows for a wealth of information flow that can be accessed from anywhere with internet connection even in remote parts of the world. As a result, online shopping has become another mode of doing business which is thriving due to bigger audience and higher potential gains (Kambil, 1997). Without doubt lately there has been an increase in online economic activities. Individuals and organisations are cashing in on trade opportunities in a borderless global market to achieve the best possible gains through wider consumer reach.

Similarly, MIM also taps on the global market via the company's website. MIM markets its products and services to online customers without having to travel around the globe. Customers can able to view training videos and seminars through interactive media, and make online enquiries. MIM customer service staff will make sure that all enquiries are attended to within 24 hours.

However, the advent of internet technology also exposes MIM to greater competition from local as well as international training providers. To handle competition, MIM managers are required to have analytical competency to constantly conduct business intelligence on its competitors. Business intelligence reporting allows MIM management to study competitors' current offerings and plan for improved products and services which are not readily available and will serve the needs of discerning clients. Through proper planning and execution skills, MIM managers are able to face increased competition globally in order to sustain its business globally..

Apart from using the internet, MIM also participated in international and local exhibitions to keep customers informed of MIM products and services. International exhibitions provide knowledge on latest management practices and trends. Only experienced MIM personnel with sufficient knowledge of the company's products and services will manage the exhibition booth to ensure that MIM's image and quality of service as an established management authority in Malaysia is well preserved.

In order to deal with challenges of globalisation, MIM managers have to acquire risk management competency so that all risk pertaining to globalisation can be minimised (Forcht, 1996). For example, health risk related to international travels to attend seminars or exhibitions. Managers must be able to make quick decisions whether to allow trips to countries which can expose MIM employees to health risks. Other than that, MIM managers also have to ensure that the company's products and services are protected by copyright, trade mark or patent laws so that the risk associated with intellectual property rights is reduced.

Management Competencies Dealing With Rapid Change

Rapid changes in the world today, brought about by fast changes in technology, have affected all areas of doing business. Organisations have to take another look at the long term strategies in order to determine whether the strategies are still relevant to the current business environment (Dunphy and Stace, 1993). For example, on-line businesses have mushroomed so much that organisations have to follow the bandwagon and offer on-line stores if they do not want to be left behind and miss the lucrative on-line market segment. Demand from customers for on-line convenience further develops the market which resulted in almost everything can be accessed via on-line stores (Deeter-Schmelz, 2006). Besides, setting-up on-line stores require less investment compared to traditional stores which are restricted by geographical factors. Based on the Contingency Theory (Van De Ven and Drazin, 1985), organisations have to make decisions based on all aspects of situation and hand, and short term strategic planning is more practical in view of rapid changes in the business landscape.

Rapid changes in organisations indirectly benefit the training industry. When organisations shift towards more technological orientation, the company needs to enhance and revise management methods and delivery of services. Such measures will require companies to retrain their employees for skills upgrading and new skills requisition. The gap in employee knowledge and skills need to be addressed to enable them to cope with changing demands and working methods (Friedberg, 2001).

MIM as an organisation is no exception. In order to handle rapid changes in doing business, MIM leaders and managers demonstrate excellent change competency. Change competency refers to the ability to embrace change by understanding, expecting and performing change as they occur. To successfully adopt change competency, MIM managers are prepared to apply change management practices in any areas which warrant changes, and do so effectively at all levels within the organisation (Gruban, 2003). In order to manage change, decision making skills are of utmost importance. The ability to make quick decisions accurately can produce desired outcomes for the company.

As a practical example, when the internet technology first hit the Malaysian shores, many organisational managers who are not technology-savvy find it quite difficult to migrate to new systems and methods of doing business (Friedberg, 2001). They have to master new computer skills and manage system changes in their organisations so as not to be left behind in terms of technology. Many organisations have to invest in systems upgrading to cope with technological diversification.

For MIM, migration to new methods of product and service delivery put additional challenges on its management. However, because its managers are equipped with change competency, the process can be implemented quickly. Its employees are given regular circular through emails or oral briefings on the importance of embracing the new technology so that they fully understand the significance of changes that are taking place in the company and the impact of change on the company's corporate objectives. The management are able to quickly decide in investment for new systems and sufficient human capital to support the technology changes. In no time, MIM is able to offer product and service information on-line through its website which can be accessed by customers all around the world at any time of the day. Through the expansion in target market scope, MIM is able to sell its products and services to a wider audience across the globe.

With continuing development and enhancement of online marketing, MIM can now deliver its training material through its website. To illustrate, e-learning and live trainings can be conducted via video or teleconferencing. In addition, clients can also access training videos which have been uploaded in the portal to allow for viewing at the convenience of customers. These abilities add a new dimension to MIM product and service delivery method, thus increasing customers' confidence in MIM's capability as a world-class training provider.

In other terms, MIM managers also have to deal with rapid changes in lifestyle of its employees. The new generation of young employees have high interest in acquiring modern gadgets such as sophisticated hand phones, cameras, branded clothing and accessories and even cars. To finance such lifestyle, they are demanding higher remuneration package from the management. MIM managers face a tough challenge to retain young, talented employees because they are easily attracted by offers from other companies which they deem as better compared to what they are currently earning. To counter this issue, MIM managers have put together a loyalty incentive programme whereby the remuneration package of employees are reviewed every few years depending on their years of service and job performance. This effort requires good negotiation and communication skills so that MIM will be able to retain the services of performing employees.

CONCLUSION

Organisational leaders and managers all over the world today face tough challenges to cope with the changing demands due to technological advancement and diversification. Organisations which fail to embrace change successfully will eventually become obsolete and will be left behind. Companies also have to constantly upgrade their products and services in order to compete in the global markets (Deaconu, 2007). Organisations that successfully adapt to changes in the business environment and are able to manage challenges of globalisation are more likely to achieve sustainable competitive advantage (Lado et al., 1992).

In order to be on par with other training providers, MIM managers have to be equipped with management competencies such as planning, risk management, team development, decision making as well as resource and people management capabilities. MIM also has to continually upgrade the skills of its managers from time to time as managing change is an ongoing process.