January 25, 2017

People management a top priority for line managers in 2017

If there’s one skill that line managers need to hone in 2017 it’s people management, according to recent CIPD research. Why? Because many line managers are not being given the training and support they need, in particular when they take on new responsibilities. This is something that should be of serious concern to HR.

This situation is highlighted in the latest CIPD HR Outlook survey, ‘HR Outlook: Winter 2016-17: views of our profession’. It found that in organisations where line managers have taken on new people management responsibilities that have been devolved from the HR function (something that is the case for 50% of the survey respondents), less than half (44%) had been given any formal training. Furthermore, only three in five (60%) are given ongoing tailored support.

Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD and lead author of the report, was taken aback by the findings. “I was quite surprised at the percentage about the lack of training in many organisations when line managers take on new responsibilities,” she says. “Line managers are the first port of call for staff and the expectations of those line managers are both high and broad. It’s not just hiring and performance management, but also employee wellbeing, supporting staff on mental health issues and being the early warning system.”

If line managers aren’t given the training and support that they need and when they need it – ideally before they take on their new responsibilities – then organisations might find that they have a whole tier of managers that lack the necessary skills and behaviours. This can lead to negative or ineffective management behaviour. Jill gives an example: “One of the reasons managers might not approach difficult situations or conversations is that they might be worried about what they can and cannot say.”

Jill stresses how important it is that line managers, in particular those with new responsibilities, are given formal training. This needs to be followed up with refresher training further down the line. She also recommends that managers are assigned mentors, whether internal or external (or both) to act as advisors and sounding boards. “Having an internal mentor helps people to navigate internally,” she says. “Having an external mentor gives people a fresh perspective and that mentor can challenge them.”

It’s not just line managers who lack the necessary people management skills and behaviours. According to the CIPD research, senior business leaders also need to hone their people management skills. Around half of the HR professionals participating in the research said that senior business leaders do not possess the people management skills and behaviours that would enable them to get the best out of their employees.

The report found that the participants voted performance management and people management as the top leadership behaviours and skills required by organisations in the next three years. However, more than half (53%) of those who said performance management was important said senior leaders’ current skills in this area were ineffective. A little less than half (44%) said senior leaders’ people management skills were ineffective.

Leaders were rated as being effective in only one of the top ten leadership behaviours and skills cited as being important in the next three years. It was budgeting and financial management. They also rated well on technical ability and operational management.

What did Miller have to say about these findings? “What can we practically do to improve the leadership capability? We need to build the talent pipeline, so that when people get into leadership roles, the fundamentals are already there. We can’t afford to have a time lag.”

When Miller talks about a time lag, she refers to the time between a leader or manager taking on a new role or new responsibilities and having the skills required to fulfil that new role or duties.

This is something that the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) also feels strongly about, so much so that it has issued a manifesto called ‘Addressing the leadership lag: An ILM Manifesto’.

This Manifesto focuses on the need to ensure organisations have current leaders and future leaders with the required behaviours, skills and confidence. The ILM has identified five key areas that it thinks need to be addressed to overcome the current leadership lag. They are:

– Leadership for competitive advantage
– Look longer term at leadership
– Adapt post-Brexit
– Develop from the bottom up
– Create flexible cultures

We’ve written about this need for leaders to improve their leadership capabilities before so it’s by no means a new problem.

It looks like there is a lot for HR, managers and leaders to do in 2017 to ensure that employees and organisations have the managers and leaders they need.