Poor managers hurting the economy (Guest Blog)
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In a week which saw a new England football manager, the CIPD has cast a light on the growing problem of management within the UK. While we all hope that Roy Hodgson can break the trend of English failure, the greater worry is that there is a deficit of leadership skills within British business. That, clearly, is affecting productivity and profitability.

A growing reality gap

The CIPD’s report surveyed both managers and employees and found a startling gap between what managers and employees believed was happening in the workplace. 90% of managers said they would coach their people whenever they met, but only 40% of employees agreed. 75% claimed to discuss career progression with their employees, of whom only 38% agreed.

Equally, 80% of managers said they’re doing a good job. Under 60% of employees agreed.

We just can’t manage…

Perhaps the football team’s ongoing problem finding English managers is indicative of a wider problem. While popularity is certainly not an objective, people do appreciate a good manager. Poor management is often cited as the main reason for leaving an organisation. So are we just getting it wrong?

One statistic that stood out was that nearly 30% of people working in the UK are managers. Do we have too many managers? This seems an astonishing proportion.

Equally, if only 50% are satisfied with their managers, are we doing enough to help managers improve their people skills? Are we monitoring our managers and coaching them in how to better lead their teams?

A vicious circle

The CIPD called it a vicious circle of poor management – not spending enough time on proactively managing, coaching and inspiring their teams leads to spending time dealing with stressed or absent employees, and potential conflict. From a Human Resources viewpoint, we are putting a greater onus upon our managers, from taking on elements of HR administration to – in some cases – dealing with grievances. This, on top of their day-to-day jobs, is putting a greater strain on them, leaving them with less time to sit down with their people.

Train and support

We now need to address the skills gap by taking our line managers aside (that’s three in ten employees) and giving them the training they need to support their people. Equally, we need to insist on regular training and coaching in order to enforce a culture of excellent people management.

Underpinning this, we need to support them by removing administrative hassles from their day-to-day jobs. Sit with them and understand what extraneous tasks they are completing instead of sitting down with their teams and talking with them. Understand what work they are taking on themselves instead of delegating, and discuss ways of relieving them of that workload.

Future-proof your talent

Management should not be everyone’s chief aim. Too many people view management as the ‘be all and end all’ without fully considering whether they are cut out for managing people or not. Viewers of Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge will have heard star policewoman Saga Noren commenting that she doesn’t want a promotion saying, quite bluntly, “I’m not cut out for management”.

Talent management should not always be simply about pinpointing future managers. Management requires certain skill sets, certain empathies that cannot always be taught – it is not, therefore, something that your most talented employees are destined for, and should not be considered the ‘only route’ – from your point of view, or from theirs.

Therefore, identify potential managers according to how they interact with people, not how they project themselves around the business.

And that’s our challenge – not just empowering and relieving our current managers, but finding the next generation of leaders. The gains? A more productive workforce, and a growing business. Simple.

About the author: Gareth Cartman blogs regularly on human resources issues, and currently works with Ceridian Ireland.