Better leadership and people management skills needed to make UK more competitive

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Efforts to close the UK's productivity gap with its major international competitors are being fatally undermined by a leadership and people management skills deficit in the UK, according to the CIPD.

Responding to the Government’s Skills for Sustainable Growth consultation, the CIPD has highlighted the "skills multiplier effect" that good management can have in unlocking the potential of wider investment in skills. Conversely, the institute warns, without a clear strategy to build leadership and people management skills, too much of Government spending on skills will continue to be wasted as motivation and engagement suffers at the hands of managers who fail to give employees the opportunities to fully use their skills and realise their full potential.

Research shows Government investment in developing skills will only be fully effective if people are managed properly to ensure they have the opportunity to apply their skills, and are motivated to go the extra mile for their employer.

Stephanie Bird, CIPD director of public policy and HR capability, said: "There is much in the new Government’s skills consultation that is to be welcomed. 

"A clear intention to simplify the byzantine skills system, a focus on enhancing the role apprenticeships can play in supporting skills development and job creation, and increasing the value placed on vocational learning are all steps we can readily support.

"However, 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.

"Last year’s government-commissioned review of employee engagement highlighted the link between effective leadership and people management skills, enhanced employee engagement and improved business performance. Yet the UK invests less in management development than its main international competitors, and its managers are rated less positively by employees.

"Detailed polling by CIPD among employees found fewer than half of employees say their line manager usually or always provides feedback on their performance. Nearly half (44%) say their line manager rarely or never coaches them and a third report their line manager never or rarely discusses their training needs."

In order to address this leadership and management skills deficit the CIPD has called for a pan-government people management skills strategy, to run in partnership with key employer and professional bodies. This would focus on a campaign to boost employee engagement by promoting best practice on leadership and people management, in order to ‘nudge’ employers to invest more effectively in people management skills.