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An important facet of this answer depends upon what major elements compose the modern business environment. We could say something trite, like "managers have to deal with customer satisfaction", but this is true for managers of all time periods.
Some of the elements important to the shape of today's market include;
- Consumer Independence: Due to a combination of factors, such as stagnant middle-class wages and increased access to technology, consumers have reduced their reliance on some markets, and magnified their profile in others. For example, websites like Yelp make customer reviews easily accessible, for good or bad.
- A Multigenerational Workforce: Whereas previous workforces were composed primarily of one or two generations, the current workforce has four; Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z. Because Boomers are not retiring, or are being fired just short of retirement, they continue to occupy places in the workforce, preventing the next generations from moving into their vacated positions. One of the results of this is that jobs previously considered menial, or suitable for high school students, like fast food, are becoming careers.
- Shifting Skillsets: Staffing is faced with the challenge of attempting to nail down exactly what skills a candidate has, and what that means. Today's market puts a premium on both education and experience, and those lacking either can find their resumes discarded instantly. Thus, to stay competitive, candidates are frequently advised to "wiggle" their qualifications to suit the skillsets demanded by a job; for example, a cashier applying for a job as a secretary might say they have experience in customer service, accounting and team management (which is true, if you agree to the candidate's perspective).
- Anonymity: As with the aforementioned online reviews, managers have to deal not only with external anonymous critique, but staff face the prospect of becoming lost in the density of a corporate environment; they may feel that their individual contributions are inconsequential, leading to poor performance or behavioral issues. Smaller companies, with a more "personal" profile and smaller staff, may enjoy the sense of individuality and identity but risk smaller profits and a more competitive market.
Thus the major challenges facing managers are:
- Tuning managerial decisions to the parties involved. A manager will have to deal with many different ages and personality types in both their staff and their customer base, and needs to recognize that each have different standards and priorities that should be addressed differently in order to attain the desired result. This is especially important if the manager is younger than the people they're interacting with.
- Dealing with online criticism. Managers need to have a damage control plan in place, and avoid ignoring criticism as this makes the company seem either incapable of using the online platform, or uncaring about its reviews.
- Balancing screening with performance. While definitively unqualified applicants will always be a part of the hiring process, applicants need to be evaluated based on what they can actually do, rather than their resumes. This requires the consistent involvement of management as well as a priority on hiring the right kind of person, not the right kind of resume.
- Making employees visible. This includes not only monitoring their performance, internet usage, and so forth, in a disciplinarian sense, but also in making employees feel that their contributions are recognized and valuable. The priority here is in matching recognition with compensation that is valuable to the employee; a free bagel for meeting the week's goals isn't much of a motivator.
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