Are accidental managers costing your business?
Posted on 4th December 2023 at 16:15
There’s more to being a manager than functional skills. Those managing a team need project management skills, time management skills, and people skills to mentor different personalities, set boundaries, motivate the team, deal with disputes, and delegate. Unfortunately, many companies are overlooking management skills when promoting people to management roles.
A recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute found that 82% of those becoming managers have no formal training in management or leadership. A separate survey found that 29% of line managers said their management background wasn’t discussed at all or in much detail before starting their role, and 16% of HR managers admit that they don’t cover management background when interviewing or promoting internally.
The survey found that managers who lack formal management training are significantly less likely to trust their team, feel comfortable leading change initiatives and to feel comfortable calling out bad behaviour compared to those with training. And it shows, as 18% of managers say they aren’t confident in their own leadership abilities, while 60% say they’re confident but need further development. Workers agree, with only a quarter describing their bosses as "highly effective."
This could be costing your business in productivity and talent. 90% of UK workers are disengaged with work, and 50% of workers with ineffective managers plan to leave their organisation in the next 12 months, compared to just 21% of those who say their line manager is effective.
Risk of disputes around sensitive topics
There is also a serious risk of disputes.
Managers most lack confidence in having conversations around gender identity, menopause, disability, fertility and neurodiversity. 15% of line managers say they aren’t confident in their own capability to support their team with issues related to neurodiversity, and 14% lack confidence dealing with mental health issues. 34% of line managers have not had training on gender identity but would like some. 30% said the same about religion, and 29% for severe illness.
This lack of training and confidence could leave your managers prone to mishandling these issues, or struggling to communicate effectively with affected employees. As many of these issues relate to protected characteristics, this could lead to discrimination claims.
28% lack confidence in being able to support a redundancy process, a process with many potential pitfalls that could leave you open to claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination, and protective awards of up to 90 days' pay for each affected employee.
Line managers also lack confidence in their own capability to manage absence (14%) or presenteeism (11%). HR professionals have even less confidence in their line managers on these issues. This is especially worrying as, in 2023, sick leave was at its highest rate for 10 years.
Disparity in hiring
Management capability more likely to be investigated where the candidate is younger. 59% of 18-24-year-olds say their management capability was explored more than functional skills needed for the role, compared to just 14% of people aged 55 to 64.
This could be because younger people have had less time to prove their functional skills, or it could be a difference in the roles and organisations that younger managers are applying for. But it could also be that older candidates are assumed to have these skills without having to prove it, whereas young people are assumed not to have such skills. (In fact, younger workers felt more confident about having conversations about sensitive topics including neurodiversity, menopause, gender identity, severe illness, and fertility.)
Your business should not have different requirements or judging criteria for younger and older applicants, or you could be leaving yourself open to claims of age discrimination. This assumption could also hurt older managers, who may receive less training or support because they are seen to already have those skills. This lack of training could also put you at risk of claims if it leads to issues for older managers.
No budget for training
Unfortunately, managers are not receiving adequate support even on request. Over a quarter (27%) of line managers who requested management training haven’t received any. For many companies, this is an issue of budget. 43% of HR managers said that they don’t have an allocated budget for upskilling line managers on managing employee relations issues, and a further 18% were unsure.
But there are other ways to support your managers. One simple option is to implement a well-written handbook. While this involves an initial investment, it is more cost-effective than providing extensive training for every manager.
Here’s how a handbook can help:
A good handbook sets clear standards of behaviour, so staff understand your expectations and how to resolve problems. This should reduce unnecessary disputes, freeing up their time for other duties. When managers do need to get involved, easy-to-read policies cut the risk of mistakes as managers can find and apply the information they need quickly and confidently.
More independent employees
If policies are clear and easy to access, employees can resolve more of their own issues independently, using the policy as a guideline. This reduces overreliance on your managers, leaving them more time for the issues that do require management input. If staff get used to reading the relevant policy first it will also mean that, when the manager is involved, their time will be used more effectively. They won't have to spend time finding and explaining policies, or advising employees about steps they could take independently.
Defend your business from claims
Should you face claims of unfair dismissal and constructive dismissal from former employees, it can help your case to show that the manager involved followed your policies, and that your policies are reasonable. Good policies can also help defend your business from vicarious liability for employees’ behaviour by demonstrating that you took reasonable steps to prevent misconduct.
It is important to keep your policies up to date so that managers can confidently apply the policies as they are, without needing to check it is still relevant. Having all of the policies in one place will make it easier to do regular reviews and update them in line with the law or your business needs.
Creating your handbook
A bad handbook is no improvement on not having a handbook. We often see unnecessary disputes caused by handbooks that are too complex. Busy managers don’t have time to work them out and end up misinterpreting them, having to fight to make them fit your business, or ignoring them altogether. If policies are concise, easy to read and tailored to your business, managers shouldn't need training to apply them.
We also see problems caused by companies using template policies, which are not tailored to their business. Standard template policies may be impossible to implement in your business, while policies from different sources may contradict each other. This makes it more difficult for your managers to apply the policies, causing even more stress and wasting more of their time.
Investing in a handbook that is tailored to your business, easy-to-read and consistent throughout will pay off in the long term by reducing the risk of costly claims, saving managers’ time and reducing disputes. Take the time to think through the possible problems and how to deal with them without the urgency of an ongoing issue. This will avoid unnecessary time and stress for managers if and when the issue does arise, as well as making sure they feel supported.
Chartered Management Institute: Taking responsibility - Why the UK PLC needs better managers
ESPHR: Middle Managers Matter 2023
HR Magazine: Does the future depend on re-learning how to lead?
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