How to Recognize Management-Material Employees by @HRTMExec 

“You manage things; you lead people.” ~Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

According to a recent survey released by The Creative Group – a creative staffing agency that connects full-time or project-based talent and companies in design, marketing, advertising, and public relations – the employees that are considered for management positions already display leadership skills in their current roles.

The Creative Group used an independent research firm to conduct 400 telephone interviews: 200 with randomly-selected advertising executives from agencies with 20 or more employees, and 200 with marketing executives who were randomly selected from companies with 100 or more employees.

When asked, “In your opinion, which of the following factors weighs most heavily when your company promotes professionals to management positions?” the executives responded as follows:

  • 53% chose motivational or leadership skills
  • 19% preferred interpersonal or soft skills
  • 13% selected strategic business expertise
  • 8% favored technical expertise
  • 7% gave the most weight to seniority or tenure with the company

We asked Diane Domeyer, Executive Director of The Creative Group, to provide insight regarding the executives’ responses.

HR & Talent Management: Why do you think motivational or leadership skills were listed by over half of the survey respondents?

Diane Domeyer: Employees expect their managers to not only make timely and sound decisions but also to show enthusiasm for their work, their team, and the company and inspire them to achieve business and professional development goals.

Many executives may look for candidates with strong motivational and interpersonal skills because, unlike technical proficiency, they are harder to teach and are developed and refined over time.

HRTM: While interpersonal skills came in a distant second, it appears that these soft skills are still important when weighing an employee’s management potential.

Domeyer: Strong interpersonal or soft skills have always been important. But they have become more relevant as managers are increasingly expected to collaborate with colleagues in different departments and business contacts outside the organization, such as vendors and consultants. Therefore, managers must have excellent communication skills; this includes the ability to convey complex information effectively and listen intently to feedback so they can follow through with appropriate action.

HRTM: Seniority used to be a major criterion that companies used to promote employees to management positions, but that trend appears to be changing.

Domeyer: While tenured employees can offer the benefit of greater experience, this does not necessarily equate with better management ability. A less-experienced worker possessing a greater flair for innovation and creativity, for example, may be more likely to generate and execute great ideas.

HRTM: Although your survey reflects the creative sector, what tips can you offer HR professionals and executives in any industry?

Domeyer: As the job market picks up, professionals with in-demand skills are more apt to explore their career options, making retention a key concern for employers. Promoting from within can be a powerful retention tool – and companies can take steps to cultivate their employees’ leadership abilities. Some ideas for doing this include:

  • Establishing a mentoring program. Mentoring is a cost-effective, easy-to-implement method to provide hands-on training to employees and promote knowledge transfer between seasoned and less-experienced professionals.
  • Organizing brown-bag training sessions. Provide in-house classes that can be taught by well-respected managers from within the organization, industry experts, or even recently retired company employees.
  • Exploring e-learning options. The Internet offers a wide variety of effective training options for professionals while also saving employers the time and expense of sending personnel off-site for instruction.”


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