Job picture bright for middle managers

March 30, 1992|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,Chicago Tribune

Despite a generally slow job market, Jeffrey Christian, president and chief executive officer of Christian & Timbers, a Cleveland-based executive search firm, is looking for managers, particularly those in the $100,000 to $500,000 salary range.

"There's definitely hiring going on, and 50 percent of the companies now laying off employees will do some hiring of management in the near future," said Christian, who added that his business was up 40 percent in 1991. "Despite the layoffs, there absolutely will be middle managers forever. Without them, we don't get senior managers. We've got to grow them. There can't be a void."

At the end of the 1980s -- when middle management ranks were decimated -- there were 12.5 million managers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2.5 million executives and senior managers, 5 million middle managers and 5 million supervisors.

Despite the downsizing, the number of management jobs is expected to increase by 3 million in this decade.

"The increase will be due to the growing complexity of institutions," said Anthony P. Carnevale, chief economist for the American Society for Training and Development, based in Alexandria, Va. "There will be more managers because non-management jobs increasingly call for managerial skills."

Mr. Carnevale, who did a two-year research project on management and training with the U.S. Department of Labor, also noted that the proliferation of smaller businesses projected for the 1990s means there will be "a larger proportion of managers to the rest of employees."

But managers getting jobs today are different from those hired in the halcyon 1980s, when the best jobs went to MBAs, engineers and lawyers.

"Today, when I look for managers for clients and my own staff, I look for high-impact players, change agents, drivers and winners, people who are extremely flexible, bright, tactical and strategic, who can handle a lot of information, make decisions quickly, motivate others, chase a moving target and shake things up," said Mr. Christian, who heads a staff of 20 people.

"Previously, the emphasis was on credentials and experience, which are still important, but they are learned -- and you can't teach good leadership or how to be excited about life."

If projections are correct, the job title of manager will not go the way of the dinosaur but will be redefined to include new survivor skills.

"Managers are evolving, not disappearing," said Craig Perrin, senior product designer for Zenger-Miller Inc., an international management training and consulting firm headquartered in San Jose, Calif. "There are jobs for managers who can adapt to a team environment."

Mr. Perrin's firm designs packaged training programs for managers, supervisors and first-line employees at such companies as General Electric, Black & Decker, the Federal Reserve Bank, Levi Strauss and American Express.

Job opportunities will open up for those interested in becoming managers who are skilled in motivating a diverse employee group to generate new ideas.

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