If the UK is to close the productivity gap with international competitors, the coalition government must focus expenditure on improving the country’s poor quality of management skills, an HR body has warned.
In response to its ‘Skills for Sustainable Growth’ consultation, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) urged the government to develop a clear strategy for enhancing leadership and people management skills in order to unlock “the potential of a wider investment in skills”.
Stephanie Bird, the CIPD’s director of public policy and HR capability, welcomed proposals to simplify the current “byzantine” skills system, enhance the role of apprenticeships to support skills development and job creation and increase the value placed on vocational learning. But she warned: “We are concerned that too much spending on skills – by government and employers alike – is being wasted because managers lack the skills to engage, motivate, coach and develop people in the workplace. Effective managers also manage stress, conflict and absence effectively and provide support when employees are facing problems.”
While last year’s government-commissioned review highlighted the link between effective leadership and people management skills, enhanced employee engagement and improved business performance, the UK currently invested less in developing managers than any of its key international rivals and, as a result, they were rated “less positively” by staff, Bird said. Moreover, CIPD research found that less than half of workers were usually or always given performance feedback by their line manager. Some 44% were rarely or ever given coaching, while a third said that their line manager rarely or never discussed their training needs with them.
As a result, the HR organisation called for the creation of a pan-government people management skills strategy and campaign that would be run in partnership with key employer and professional bodies. The focus would be on boosting employee engagement by promoting best practice, with the aim of encouraging employers to invest more effectively in people management skills.
“This is clearly a shared problem, which requires action by both employers and government. However, government can play a powerful role in ‘nudging’ investment in leadership and people management skills. Such investment is crucial if we are to unlock the wasted skills spending and individual potential that his holding Britain back in the productivity stakes,” Bird said.