The writing is on the wall.
Most people manage themselves with great success: they manage to get out of bed in the morning, they manage to get dressed, they manage to get to the office on time.
Then, at the office, they meet the “manager” that will manage them until end of the day. That’s at best a paradox, at worst a devastating error. – Let the Managers Go
At this point, our entire company is flat. With no hierarchy, everyone leads within their areas of stewardship and responsibility. Many will have excess capacity and offer to help another teammate or even go to another department to ask how they can help. (Yes, this really happens—in some cases, it happens every day.) – The End of Middle Managers (And Why They’ll Never Be Missed)
In an interconnected work environment, people with only broad skills are no longer required. People with general management skills are becoming less valuable to the organization. Many of the coordination activities of managers are being replaced by software or circumvented by connected workers. Take a look at the new global powerhouses like Apple or Google. They have far fewer employees (and fewer managers) than 20th century titans like GM or Exxon. The trend to smaller companies, many with shorter life spans, only seems destined to continue for the near future.
I think this indicates major changes for any support function (including learning & development) in organizations. If support functions do not contribute to the company’s value creation, then they will likely be reduced, replaced, or just closed. For middle managers and support functions, this should be a warning. You need to have business skills in addition to general ones. For example, if you are a learning specialist for a software company, it might make sense if you could also do some graphic design, scripting or coding. Billable skills come in handy when the pressure is on.
The future manager, or support specialist, will have to have a T-shaped set of skills. Broad knowledge & skills in what was once their specialty, and deep knowledge & skills in a business area (preferably billable). These deep skills will differentiate the generalist from the person who gets hired and stays hired.