[Digital Women’s Day in France] Is digital breaking down barriers between manager and team?

By March 21, 2014

With the move towards a digital society, management organisation is being turned upside down.

The digital revolution which France’s ‘Digital Ambassador’ Gilles Babinet talks about is well under way, but what will be the impact of digital on tomorrow’s management? This was the question the speakers at a round table chaired by L’Atelier during the Digital Women’s Day event in Paris on 7 March tried to answer. Virginie Fauvel, Digital and Market Management representative on the Executive Committee of Allianz France, Huguette Ranc, VP for Social Business and Collaboration Solutions Sales at IBM, Stéphanie Tramicheck, Country Manager of Pinterest France and Françoise Laborde, a journalist and member of French TV and radio regulator CSA, exchanged their views on the subject. The main conclusion that emerged from the discussion was that digital changes relationships between people in companies, especially between a manager and his/her team, in such a way that people find themselves increasingly on equal terms. They felt nevertheless that managers still have a role to play and need to firmly stake out their ground.

Changing the organisation

With the development of social networks, new types of interaction and new ways of doing things, digital is bringing about far-reaching changes to the traditional management model, radically altering the role of the manager. Explained Huguette Ranc: “At IBM, with over 300,000 ‘connected’ people, the link to the manager is completely different – it’s a direct link. Nowadays I ask my colleagues their opinions, they vote on things and put forward suggestions. Digital cuts right across the grain.” Françoise Laborde nevertheless underlined that “today too many of us are still working in a vertical structure. We need to move from vertical to horizontal organisations, that’s where the digital revolution lies.” On the question of contribution and status, she pointed out that “there are those who do the thinking and those who do the work – this is still too prevalent in our culture,” arguing: I believe digital can change that by placing the emphasis on each person’s talent, so that the network as a whole accepts that everyone is at the same level, with whatever talent s/he has to offer. That should be popular in a country like France where people are keen on equality!”

The digital manager

But while nowadays the thinking process has to involve the whole group, managers should not abdicate their role. “The manager’s job is to motivate the team, influence them, inspire them, and foster interaction,” argued Stéphanie Tramicheck. Huguette Ranc agreed, stressing: “The manager’s role has been turned upside down. S/he’s now a leader rather than a manager. S/he’s no longer the person who knows everything but the one who brings the team together.” And while young companies like Pinterest seem to have grasped this reality from the very beginning, larger firms such as the Allianz Group are just now embarking on these changes. “Allianz is investing in training to help the whole company shift to digital,” revealed Virginie Fauvel, adding: “We cannot let our employees become digital illiterates. There’s a civic responsibility dimension here as well.” However, the demands of digital, the feeling of having to be available 24-7, also risk generating unseen stress.  This means that “you need to deal with the human side. When you manage a digital company you also have to be able to operate inside the whirlwind,” warned Virginie Fauvel.

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