Is investing in management capabilities something that a business ‘must do’ or is it a ‘nice-to-have’? Articles are appearing in the press with increasing frequency and sense of urgency around the UK skills gap. Much of this is due to Brexit and the fact that the UK has had access to a diverse workforce, pulled from across the EU and it’s possible that our exit from the EU will put an end to this. We’ll need to be more self-sufficient and we need to be thinking now about how we start to make sure that we have the right talent to move us forward. The UK skills gap is broad but one of the key areas that has been highlighted is the lack of management capability that UK businesses currently have.
Often ‘development’ or ‘training’ are considered the ‘nice-to-haves’ in a business and so it is only when time and money are available that these get considered. It is definitely understandable why business leaders would think this way. Between their day-to-day operations, future planning and ensuring satisfactory profit margins – who ever has the time for any ‘optional’ activities. Unfortunately, whilst it might be perceived as an optional add-on, investment in employee development is an essential component for business success especially in the UK.
UK Productivity Gap
For a number of years now numerous reports have highlighted the gap in the UKs productivity when compared to the rest of G7 countries. The shortfall in productivity is documented both in the academic literature and in the press. UK lags behind US and Germany by 30% which the Chancellor described as a ‘shocking’ gap. It is thought that a lack of skill in management and innovation plays a key part in the UK’s poor performance.
The problem has been highlighted and communicated continuously but businesses in the UK seem to not be taking actions to address it. Currently only 1 in 5 businesses invest in management skills which is an extremely low number as the UK needs world class management and leadership to be able to close the gap with the G7 competitors.
As a result in 2016, the government had pledged £13m to boost management skills and productivity in the UK and also £23bn to a National Productivity Investment Fund to be spent on improving innovation and infrastructure over the next five years.
Underestimation of Managerial Skills and Expertise
Even with all the publicity on the UK skills gap, many businesses still see leadership development and investment in management skills as a luxury business add on and not as essential for their successful operations. In a typical business scenario, high performing workers with good technical skills get promoted to managerial roles and 9/10 times are left to figure out the ‘management field’ themselves. The approach taken by senior leaders is to let the ‘new managers’ learn the job themselves as because they got the promotion that means they can do the job.
Moreover, a common view of the managerial responsibility is that it should not interfere with the ‘actual work’ that needs to be done. It is perceived as just something that managers do 10% of the time in addition to their normal specialist role which takes up 90% of their time. If people management, team leading and skills development are not made a priority, then change, improvement or even sustainability of performance cannot be achieved.
In addition, businesses seem to not be focused sufficiently on overall productivity and therefore consequently do not invest in interventions that would impact on improvements of it. Research by the government set up Productivity Leadership Group gives light to the issue at hand by showing evidence that for businesses ‘productivity is not enough of a priority; many businesses don’t measure it, and, when asked, most businesses say they are above average in terms of performance. ‘
UK skills gap – what should you be doing?
This article may well have resonated with you and made you think that you should be taking some action but what can you practically be doing?
- What skills do you need? – your first step could be to put together a very simple skills matrix that captures the skills you think you need in your business both immediately and in the coming years in order to meet your business growth plans.
- What skills do you have? – you can then assess your employees against this matrix so as to understand the skills gaps you have. Again, this doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can ask the employees to assess themselves or you can ask the managers to assess the team. It doesn’t have to be a very scientific process as you’re looking for a guide as to where you should be making investment.
- How do you bridge the gap? – you then need to have a plan in place to get the skills your business needs. There are lots of options here and the “go to” doesn’t need to be formal training.
There’s an interesting article here published by HR News that gives you more information on the UK skills gap and sets out what the CIPD are asking the government to do to support businesses in this area.
We at Lighter HR Solutions know and have seen on numerous occasions businesses turnaround once their mindsets shift and they make a decision to invest in their people and especially managers. If you are amongst the businesses that hear the message and want to contribute to bridging this productivity gap in the UK through investing in your managers and their skills, contact us and we will be happy to talk through your requirements.
We are experienced in delivering individual and group focused management development programmes that range from group training, coaching or knowledge sharing sessions to individual one on one first time line manager support solutions, experienced manager packages or even executive business coaching options.
If you’d like to chat your requirements through with us then give us a call on 0203 319 1649 or use our contact form and someone will be in touch.