Introduction to Business Management Skills
Employers, in today’s competitive market, look over the typical skills while hiring their business management staff. They hunt for more know-how, more potential, and more Business Management skill and abilities. But what are the specific skill sets and knowledge that employers prize most in a prospective employee?
Burning Glass, a Boston-based labor market analytics company, scanned nearly two million job posts for business management roles in 2015 to find out the top business management skills that companies are looking for. The findings have left many business management pundits scratching their heads. Besides the more typical traits like inspiring and motivating, and displaying honesty and high integrity, companies are looking for in-depth knowledge in the functional areas of business management.
Study after study by manpower consulting companies has revealed that employers are bored with the archetypal phrases that come under the “key qualities” section of a job seeker. None seems to be different from the other, and those who strike no luck, lament about “unfair selections”.
But the truth is far from what business management graduates may like to believe. It’s about what gives the hired employee an edge over his/her peers. If you are one of those left licking their wounds after an interview that went horribly wrong, below are 10 hardcore business management skills that could catapult you to the big league in your next viva.
10 Skills Every Small Business Management
Below are the list of prominent skills to develop for business management.
1. Managing budgets
Each company has its own method for managing budgets. In Business management you have to adhere to a budget at all costs. Well, literally. A company’s budget is mostly based on tracking the spending versus time. The CFO of a company can do it, courtesy any good spreadsheet software. They can keep track of monthly spending with the target to keep each activity and project on budget.
The relationship between time and spending, however, may not be linear. Some of the spending could overlap to subsequent months because of project members being transferred, change in milestone dates, or hiring of new staff and/or consultants who have to be mentored before induction into the team. For instance, if none in the project execution team has the required expertise to achieve a late-project deadline, a manager must time the hiring so that the new staff member is not inducted too early in the project and expected to deliver top notch performance from day one itself.
Transferred managers often inherit the budgeting expertise from their predecessors. New inductees have to learn the techniques in their probation period. Sooner or later, they will be required to lead project teams, and lack of budgeting knowledge could let costs spiral out of control.
2. Planning and holding effective meetings
This is a key business management skill and here’s what you can do to make a meeting successful.
- Plan a meeting properly and carry out timely follow-ups. Define the objectives of the meeting, as well as the desired outcome, in the planning phase. Defining what you want to accomplish at the very outset will make the meeting successful.
- Put together an agenda before you go ahead with the meeting. Use it to determine which people must attend the meeting. Ideally, keep the attendee list to the minimum. Send the agenda to all attendees well in advance. Include the meeting’s objective at the top of the agenda. In this way, your attendees will be prepared and offer intelligent inputs in the meeting.
- Decide whether you’ll need a facilitator to keep the meeting on track. Experienced facilitators can identify the overlooked areas and redraw focus on them.
- Determine the technology required, ahead of the meeting. Do you require whiteboards, flip charts, LCD projector, and a laptop to facilitate your presentation in the meeting? Do you need to depute a person to record the minutes? Keep all these points in mind before convening the meeting.
- The time of the meeting has arrived. Use all the pre-meeting activities to manage your meeting. Ensure that all attendees engage in the agenda and offer appropriate inputs. Use your time management skills to keep each item on the agenda limited to the schedule.
Post-meetings are equally important. You have to review the actionable points that were decided in the meeting, the persons responsible for each of the actions, and the completion time. The minutes of the meeting can remind the attendees of their respective duties and inform the absentees of the outcome.
3. Managing by Wandering Around
Business Management gurus Bob Waterman and Tom Peters, in their epochal book “In Search of Excellence” had famously upheld that business management by wandering around (MBWA) could be very useful in modern business management. However, the skill is largely neglected, given the demands that a manager has to cater.
One may tend to believe that “wandering”, being part of the jargon, sound purposeless. The reality, however, is entirely different. MBWA means walking through the various departments occasionally, in an entirely informal manner, and discussing work with the staff. The MBWA atmosphere is always relaxed. Studies have shown that your staff can express concerns better in such a situation, which they could have otherwise said in a performance review, scheduled months away.
MBWA also helps managers to raise their concerns. Having managers engaged in their work helps the staff to feel that their work is important. That, in turn, strengthens involvement.
Undeniably, the most important skill required in business management is leadership. Business Management is more than mere administration, and taking effective and timely decisions forms an essential part of leadership. Leaders have to collect information, consider alternatives and set a proper course of action.
While taking a decision, managers have to balance tensions between the company’s long-term and short term interests. They also have to consider the constituencies involved: high-level managers, staff members, stakeholders, suppliers, customers, and others. Taking key decisions is usually not easy and may not satisfy all quarters in the company. Taking the correct decision at the correct time is imperative and a key virtue of all business management professionals.
5. Managing external R&D
This is especially true for industrial project management. Industrial research and development (R&D) is being increasingly done via open innovation processes. Works managers and other qualified staff must play a key role to select open innovation partners and help define the terms of partnership with third party organizations. Issues like defining the roles for each partner, project deadlines, terms of involvement and similar things, must be taken care of. In most cases, work with all third parties is closed through contracts. The terms of the contract must be devised in a way that it is beneficial to both sides. This calls for key negotiation skills on part of the works manager.
Once the contract is inked, the manager must be closely involved in maintaining a working relationship between the company and the outside companies.
6. More with Less
Most companies today have to work with reduced budgets because of the slow pace of economic recovery. Companies are struggling to come out of the mess and their purse strings are not yet entirely stretchable. Managers have to work under such circumstances i.e. they have to do more with less, a skill that most companies are increasingly looking at.
Changing your HR practices could be a way to negotiate through trying times. Consider hiring an experienced professional to work part-time rather than a full-time employee. Hiring part-timers lead to the same work being done with a lesser impact on the company’s finances. Many unemployed job seekers may be more than willing to work for a lesser pay packet rather than have no employment at all. While it mostly depends on the company’s broader HR policy, the ability to manage more with less is increasingly being considered a key trait in a manager’s resume.
7. Managing Opposite Priorities
With tight finances and fewer staff, managers today are finding it difficult to balance conflicting priorities. The conflict between business management and operations is commonplace across all industry verticals and managers have to deal with them. Managers, especially the newly recruited, have to consult their superior at critical junctures. Staff members can also be consulted for how effectively to balance such priorities.
8. Managing Diversity
Managers today have to deal with many issues that crop from the ethnic and geographical diversity of staff members. There are racial, gender and cultural issues to battle. Those from the so-called Gen-X and millennials (more commonly known as Gen-Y) have different attitudes from the baby boomers. This is reflected in the work as well. Millennials balance work and family in a different way than their earlier generation. The work pattern also varies. A successful business manager has to deal with these that are often tricky to handle.
While a newly appointed manager may not be expected to deal with delicate issues, they must learn with time what motivates their staff and keep them happy. A policy can be put in place to foster engagement and reward outstanding employees for their performance.
9. Upholding Personal Integrity
Personal integrity is crucial to retain the respect and trust of your staff and peers. A manager must adhere to a set of ethics. If you don’t know the answer or are barred from divulging information because of corporate confidentiality clauses, you are not supposed to lie, merely to prove a point.
Managers are often confronted with legal and moral choices to tackle a business issue. An ethical choice is what they need to make. For instance, in a leading pharmaceutical company, patent litigation was developed by a former employee. A part of the lab reports and notebooks were to be properly examined n this regard. At the time of the inspection, it emerged that one of the inventors was left out of the patent application. Though the inventor never complained, the employer did the ethical thing to include the inventor’s name in the patent application, despite the passage of over two years.
In another situation, a promising young chemist lost her job in a layoff. Her colleagues were upset to know about the incident. The departmental manager called the staff and explained the situation. But he lied about why the chemist lost her job. In one moment he lost the respect of the staff and never regained it. The situation adversely affected the manager’s effectiveness and the department’s morale.
10. Learning New Skills
Managers are often sent to training programs and business management assignments to refresh their skills. But this is largely restricted to big companies. Smaller firms usually can’t afford training programs, especially at a time when organizations are trying to cut corners. While whatever you learned at the business school will come in handy in your professional life, capacity building is a continuous trend. You have to brush up your soft skills constantly. You can use your immediate superior as a mentor. Watch him/her carefully. Learn from how he/she tackles a situation. You can then apply the same process to attend and resolve problems.
Even after mastering current responsibilities, you have to grow and learn. Accepting stretch assignments is often a good option to expand your capabilities. It also helps to increase your knowledge base.
In the End
It’s true that you can’t learn all the skills required for a job before starting your professional career. They also vary according to the managerial level you are in. But still, companies today look for several broad business management skills among job applicants. If you are at the executive level, you must be able to convert your ideas into workable strategies. Middle managers, on their part, should be skilled to execute these strategies, delegate tasks and finish projects on time. Line managers, on the other hand, are expected to make good use of both human and material resources while operating plants.
Remember, successful managers are great in interpersonal and relationship building skills. They have to work closely with a team, assign them work and ensure that they get properly trained for the job. They must keep the staff motivated at all times, and are also responsible for hiring and firing them. As a manager, you have to be compassionate, approachable, diplomatic, and above all, have superb communication skills for listening to and rewarding your staff.
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