Skillsoft Blog

New survey reveals UK Managers are in crisis

By Tony Glass

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“The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate you away from those who are still undecided.” – Casey Stengel

A quick Google search and you can easily unearth a whole slew of jokes about managers, with their perceived ineptitude and irrationality producing the most/best fodder. Television hasn’t been too kind to them ether, I mean The Office pokes fun at all ‘characters’ within the work place, but I do think the manager position comes in for the most ridicule.

And yet, the role of the manager is fundamentally one of the most, some might even say the most, important role in the workplace. Time and again, we hear about how a bad manager is the main reason employees leave a job; whereas a good manager means motivated and engaged employees, employees who are according to research from the University of California, 31% more productive, produce 37% higher sales, and were three times more creative than demotivated employees.

So given all this mounting evidence of just how crucial the role is, are we doing enough to prepare candidates for such roles?

Probably not.

A recent survey by York-based organisation development consultancy h2h, which involved managers from 88 businesses across the UK, appears to support this claim.

Here are just some of the findings of the report:

  • 42% of managers didn’t feel prepared to take on their first management role.
  • 69% admit they spent the majority of their time not managing their team in their first management role. This gets worse over time, with 74% saying they now spend majority of their time not managing their team today.
  • A total of 70% said they couldn’t perform effectively as a manager because there were too many other demands on their time from elsewhere in the business.
  • Other key challenges to performing effectively included lack of direction from management above (29%), too few resources (37%) and their team didn’t have the necessary skills (21%).
  • Managers also admit to struggling with delegation, with 35% saying they struggled to let go of control, 35% saying they didn’t feel they had the resources and 29% saying it didn’t feel fair to ask someone to do the task.

I’m sure many other managers reading this would agree, and I can’t help but think of that quote from Alan Lakein, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Are we not setting up our managers to fail if we are not providing adequate training and mentoring? Again looking at this survey, the answer is yes as half of the respondents believe better development programmes, better training and greater support is needed.

I also hasten to point out that providing managerial L&D opportunities to new managers or potential managers does not mean simply adding further leadership training to executives in either the false hope that this will then trickle down throughout the organisation or because we tend to skewer L&D spend to favour the top end of most enterprises. I wholeheartedly agree with Victor Lipman, who in a HBR piece so accurately pointed out, “And as I neared the end of my corporate days, I realized I’d received much more management training in the last five years than I did in the first 20 years — when I really needed it — combined.”

Naturally given my job title, I can only concur and I must admit I do find it slightly incomprehensible that so few do receive leadership training, especially when there is just so much of it available. Our leadership courses offer the very latest in both content and delivery, but there are lots of options out there and I’d rather promote the understanding of why training is so important than just one brand.

Tony Glass is the General Manager and VP of Sales for Skillsoft EMEA.

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