UK managers: `Quality not improved’


CIPD Report finds failure to boost managers’ skills is behind weak productivity

A failure to boost UK management skills is a key reason for the UK’s long-standing productivity weakness as the country continues to trail behind productivity leaders such as Germany and the USA, CIPD research has found.

The report ‘Are UK organisations getting better at managing their people?’ examines how UK management skills have changed since the 2003 Porter and Ketels report, which highlighted that management quality is key to determining economic performance.

CIPD findings showed that while people management practices have changed over the decade there was little evidence of underlying improvement. This suggests more can be done to enhance management practices. For example, managers could spend more time with their direct reports and increase the quality of coaching and career development advice they provide.

Currently, less than 5 per cent of a manager’s time is spent in formal or informal discussions about work issues, while just half of employees are satisfied with the amount of time their manager spends with them.

The results also showed that management processes were not always applied consistently or fairly prompting a lack of trust in senior leadership.

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of employees were satisfied with their line manager, and said they trusted them and value their honesty, but only 33 per cent trust their senior management.

And organisations where trust between employees and managers was low were more likely to have been weakened by the recession.

Worryingly, management practices in the past 10 years have only kept pace with international competition rather than “making up the ground”, the CIPD said. And techniques that could make a difference, like high-performance working practices designed to make the best use of workforce skills, are spreading among employers.

But the research found that approaches to maximise productivity and innovation, such as aligning workforce requirements with business strategy and more employee autonomy, were “still not the norm”. This is why the UK continues to lag behind other economies such as the USA and Germany, the report added.

These are deep-rooted problems and the solutions are largely down to organisations, the CIPD said. However, it has urged the government to consider how to raise awareness of the challenges and potential approaches to tackling them, especially in its capacity as an employer.

Mark Beatson, chief economist for the CIPD, said that while successive governments had changed regulations around how organisations work, they had “typically shied away from getting involved in how well businesses are managed, filing the issue in the ‘too difficult’ drawer”.

But Beatson argued that with UK productivity falling further behind its competitors since 2008, it was essential to look at the root problem of poor productivity and move the debate on from low-pay and low-quality jobs.

He urged the government to get behind innovation in workplace practices “with as much vigour as it, quite rightly, does for technological innovation”.

“Our research shows that anywhere between 30 and 45 per cent of employees have some type of managerial responsibility, so small improvements in the performance of each manager can make a big difference. There are small steps that businesses can take to address this, by putting high-performance policies and practices in place and by ensuring that individuals get the training they need to be effective managers,” he explained.

“Employers should also consider providing alternative routes to higher status and more pay that don’t necessarily involve management responsibility, as some employees may be more valuable in a position making full use of their technical skills than they are in a management role. This would reinforce the message that management is a skill in its own right, not something that comes with a promotion.”

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