Episode 6: What is Happening to Entry-Level Jobs and Middle Managers?

June 23rd, 2021 by Yvonne Harris

In this episode of Welcome to the New Normal we’re discussing how the number of entry-level positions has been declining rapidly over the last decade, a trend that has accelerated in the last 12 months. The demand for tech skills has never been higher, something higher education will have to factor in. At the same time, technology is changing the game for middle managers, who will get squeezed out if they can’t reinvent themselves for the New Normal.

Tune in to the Welcome to the New Normal audio podcast now and follow along with the script below.

News

So many opportunities and innovations have been accelerated by events in the last year.

But things aren’t changing altogether for the better for younger people trying to get their first foot on the lobs ladder.

According to Glassdoor, the number of postings for entry-level jobs in the United States plunged a massive 68% last year.

What’s going on?

Well, it’s not all about the pandemic, and this is a trend that’s been going on for a while, at least since the 2008 recession.

In the last decade, it seems that companies have been cutting costs by reducing the number of low-level positions.

Even back in 2018, 61% of entry-level jobs required at least 3 years of experience, which isn’t entry-level. A bit of a catch 22…

And the demands for skills, especially in tech, have never been higher.

The problem for young people, according to Quatrz.com’s “At Work” section, is the gap between what’s on offer in higher education, and the increasingly stringent demands of employers.

So what’s the answer?

Students must graduate knowing how the skills learned during their time in college connected to the demands of their first job. Not a small feat when you don’t necessarily know what major to pick let alone what jobs are out there for you.

Secondly, they need to be confident that their employers will continue to help them hone and evolve their industry-specific skills for years to come.

Indeed, education should not end at graduation.

And employers have a huge responsibility to drive change:

Employers need to get together with higher education to determine what skills are needed most and to make sure these are taught.

Employers also need to have a hard think about the training programs for their younger employees, not just for their current jobs but looking beyond to their broader careers.

There are lots of innovative solutions out there. CodePath works with employers and higher education institutions to redesign computer science courses, helping talent that hasn’t been recognized get into the world of tech…

But it’s also vital that employers don’t try to merely tick the boxes, filtering out promising employees simply because they didn’t get the right guidance, or didn’t choose a subject directly linked to their jobs.

A lack of skills is not a lack of talent, and I’m quite glad of that. There are a lot of arts and humanities graduates out there making a real difference in business, and long may it continue.

Research

Is it time to Free the Middle Manager?

So while it’s a tough time for Gen Z job seekers, spare a thought for the poor middle manager, who is also facing growing challenges.

According to a survey by the Harvard Business Review, middle managers (defined as those managing 1-6 people) are 46% less satisfied with their jobs than senior executives.

During this turbulent year, they have struggled more than twice as much as executives when it comes to maintaining a sense of belonging… They are more stressed, and they are less productive…

It’s not just a story about the pandemic, and the stresses they are feeling have been building for years, and they are likely to be permanent.

As we move towards greater hybridization and distributed workforces, the traditional role of the middle manager is being trampled into the dust.

How so?

First… The conventional 9-to-5 model is growing obsolete

It’s obvious that flexible, asynchronous work schedules mean better work-life balance, less stress (arguable), and higher productivity.

The old-fashioned “management by walking around” approach is no longer effective.

Instead, managers have to custom-build operating procedures and workflows for their teams, that don’t depend on in-person communication

It’s something that many organizations are woefully unprepared for.

A second finding of the Harvard Business Review survey is that a distributed workforce is replacing the physical office.

When information sharing moves from desks and meeting rooms to digital channels, it becomes much easier to automate information sharing and decision-making.

On one hand, it improves transparency, but it also eliminates many information-sharing mechanisms that would otherwise be the responsibility of middle managers.

And Finally,

Measuring output has become easier while building a shared purpose has become harder.

With a distributed workforce, holding a team together is more challenging than ever.

And the shift to digital tools has dramatically simplified the process of tracking and measuring output.

The traditional management approach of “command and control” is unnecessary, and in many cases, counterproductive.

It’s not all bad news. Middle managers still have a key role to play — but they need to go with the times.

Middle managers must loosen their grip on the flow of information, they must embrace a more open culture, that doesn’t require them to decide what information should be shared across teams.

They will also need to be open to greater scrutiny and day-to-day accountability from their employees, whom they must empower to make quicker and better decisions on their own.

Number

68%

The number of the day is 68 – that’s 68%

7 in 10 companies surveyed by McKinsey about hybridized work say they have no detailed plan – either communicated or in place – for the return of their employees to the office.

How does it break down?

4% have not put any thought at all into the return to the office…

About a third have some general ideas being discussed – but definitely no plan, or a shared vision

And another third does have a high-level vision, that is actually aligned among the top teams, but nothing is communicated to their employees.

With more people getting the vaccine every day and the prospect of a health passport being implemented in the EU (and possibly in the US), it seems crazy that more companies have not already started to plan for a return to the office in safe conditions.

They need a carefully thought-out plan and a very clear timeline.

And it isn’t helped by national and international health guidelines that aren’t necessarily aligned.

Thanks very much for tuning in. You can follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube for the latest news on the podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast streaming program.

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