It was long established that the advances of technology are driving the tempo of change in complex business organizations. Harvard Business Review wrote about the need for greater differentiation and tighter integration (coordination) as far back as the 60ties. It established that the introduction of a new management job — the integrator — was essential.
What Is an Integrator?
Ever since then, this tricky role has been expanding to include emerging trends in need of integration. Because differentiation and integration are, in essence, antagonistic, the role of an integrator is complex and calls for creativity and a diversified approach.
For many large businesses, one integrator can hardly do the job. Just as Harvard Business Review predicted, “one of the critical organizational innovations will be the establishment of management positions, and even formal departments, charged with the task of achieving integration.”
Basically, the role of an integrator is to help the business achieve both differentiation and integration simultaneously. To make this complex goal come true, integrators must be exceptional leaders capable of holding everything together by executing the business plan, providing cadence, and being accountable for the profit and loss results.
To hire an integrator, and an exceptional one at that, businesses may have to look hard into the CVs of all applicants and even then not find one.
Hiring for Your Team
While it is true that each and every company is unique, it is also a fact that every company needs certain universal roles. From the CEO, CFO, QA and safety managers to accountants, bookkeepers, office managers, and marketing managers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire during a labor shortage, which is still in full effect.
Namely, with the rise of the gig economy and remote work, more and more people are looking for hybrid work models and even project-based gigs, hoping to achieve higher autonomy in their everyday lives.
This spells trouble for businesses looking for integrators as the role doesn’t have particular requirements and prerequisites. While many CEOs argue that everyone can teach themselves to become an integrator, the issue is that not everyone is willing to. With so many other jobs available all around, the effort is not worth it for many people.
Integrators are expected to contribute to a number of areas, notably business and/or corporate development, engagement, communication, and project management. They aim to achieve consistency, enable agility, drive results and ensure proper prioritization, all the while integrating the leadership team.
To be sure, it’s hard work, so you should look for people with a positive outlook, are interested in challenges, and are willing to learn and contribute original ideas.
Why Every Company Needs Integrators
For starters, long past are the times when an “integrator” was seen as a single, unique role. Nowadays, with the rapid advances of technology and science, there are a number of sub-roles. Thus, there are business integrators, system integrators, and even commercial integrators, depending on the focus of the role.
All of them, however, are in the possession of specific skill sets without which they wouldn’t be able to perform such demanding tasks. Some of the crucial skills and competencies an integrator should possess include decision making, business and data analysis skills, people management skills, situational leadership, contribution skills and performance assessment skills.
Because integration in itself is a continual — let alone complex — process, every business needs an integrator or, in the case of larger businesses, a whole integration team.
As mentioned above, this is a managerial role, but since soft skills matter more than the specialization, everyone in the possession of the abovementioned skills can learn to be an integrator, if they so desire.
As a rule, integrators have the autonomy to do things their way and also must possess the authority — both vertical and horizontal — to be able to successfully work with people who don’t report to them directly.
Diversify Your Workforce With Integrators
Because of this, it is necessary for integrators to undertake cross-cultural training. Keeping in mind that hybrid work models are gaining momentum, it is also necessary for integrators to be capable of leading and bringing up to speed remote teams.
It is often the case with remote teams to include people from different backgrounds, countries and cultures, so cultural sensitivity must be taken into account.
Integrators will help you diversify your workforce in more ways than one. Not only are they capable of simplifying performance management, but they also deliver purpose clearly. Since it is often the case that performance management frameworks are unreliable when it comes to individual performance (especially in large companies), integrators can do what they are supposed to do — integrate and diversify people’s respective roles all the while keeping company’s mission in mind.
In plain words, they never lose sight of the bigger picture and cannot get distracted by small obstacles — which is no small feat.
Integrators are crucial for any business and the trend is here to stay. If anything, the need for people with these specific skill sets is only going to increase. What’s more, hybrid work models are raising the stake of sustainable performance and agile methodologies are driving traditional managers insane.
All these aspects inevitably must come together to ensure viable business development and integrators are just the people for the task.