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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: UK employers do little to tackle poor internal management skills


Even though the vast majority of UK businesses believe that their performance is at risk of being held back by a shortage of skilled managers, all too few are doing anything much about it.

According to a survey conducted among 750 managers with responsibility for talent management by the Institute of Leadership & Management, the situation is especially problematic at first line management level, where ‘softer’ skills appear to be particularly lacking.
While junior managers tended to perform well in terms of technical and functional skills (which was often the main reason behind their appointment), just under half of those questioned found it tricky to identify candidates with entrepreneurial flair, while a further 39% found it hard to locate anyone with sufficient levels of emotional intelligence.
Charles Elvin, the ILM’s chief executive, said: “Now more than ever, businesses should be investing in leadership and management development at all levels to ensure strong business performance and effectiveness. They need to consider the personal qualities of managers as well as their technical skills, helping them become more innovative, inspirational and emotionally intelligent in order to prepare them for the demands of 21st century leadership.
Developing leadership capability at all levels enabled employers to promote from within instead of relying on potentially expensive and risky external recruitment. As a result, businesses with strong internal talent plans were likely to reap the benefits of an improved company culture and employee loyalty, he added.
But some 47% of those questioned in the research identified a lack of internal staff potential as the single biggest barrier to ensuring that they had a pipeline of future leaders and managers.
A further 43% admitted that they had failed to undertake any form of succession planning or devise a talent plan, however, while a mere 18% expected to provide candidates with training before appointing them to a management position.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, only 55% of the total said that they managed to fill their managerial vacancies internally. At senior level, a mere half recruited from their internal talent pool, with core leadership skills such as strategy and financial acumen remaining undervalued and underdeveloped at lower management levels.
To try and fill these gaps, Elvin recommended: 
  • Creating a talent plan to enable leadership candidates to develop essential skills prior to appointment
  • Focusing on helping potential managers to build the right skills – the research identified the three key skills at all levels were communication, people management and organisation and planning
  • Taking personal qualities into account – being inspirational, emotionally intelligent, creative and innovative were all identified as characteristics that tended to be lacking but were crucial to generating growth
  • Not over-valuing technical skills  – although important, they are not an indicator of management capability or leadership potential.

2 Responses

  1. ILM

    I would find this information more credible if the report wasn’t by the ILM who have an interest in creating a need for management training to keep their business running.

  2. Management training

    This article very closely relates to what we’re currently doing at our company – we’re actually in the middle of looking at sending several managers onto management/leadership training courses. If anyone has any management courses they can recommend please let me know. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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