Businesses across the UK suffer significant losses in productivity because managers are unprepared and unable to manage their teams, a new survey has found.
The comprehensive poll of more than 80 different organisations by York-based organisation development consultancy h2h found the management crisis is getting worse with almost three quarters of managers saying they now spend the majority of their time not managing their team.
The Managers on the Frontline survey aimed to understand this productivity crisis and discovered that first line managers are often debilitated by lack of direction, too many demands on their time and limited support.
Managing Director of h2h Susan Binnersley says:
“This poll has highlighted a management crisis that is having a huge impact on UK industries.
“Frontline managers are ill equipped to take the lead, don’t understand their own management role and lack the skills to manage a team. This is having a detrimental effect on business performance and, if we resolve this issue, organisations will be more successful through enhanced productivity, engagement and innovation. This could enhance the UK economy and position us more positively in terms of productivity on a global scale.
“This reflects our own findings with engineering and manufacturing companies, hence the survey. In a recent case study we were able to demonstrate that if you can get front line managers focused and equip them with the relevant skills and support, most managers can free up a day and half a week to then focus on the right things. Just imagine what this could do to your business!”
The survey polled managers from 88 businesses across the UK with turnovers ranging from £1m to £1bn+ and each had varying experience from one to more than 20 years. It highlighted a worrying trend in UK management and found:
Managers unprepared and unsupported:
- 42% of managers didn’t feel prepared to take on their first management role.
- Only 21.5% of people felt they had the full support of their manager when taking over a team.
- 69% admit they spent the majority of their time not managing their team in their first management role. This gets worse over time with 74% saying they now spend majority of their time not managing their team today.
Scared to ‘let go’:
- 81% of managers say they spend a large part of their time doing tasks their team should be responsible for. The majority (72%) claim this is because they want to lead by example but more than half (51%) admit they feel the task is done quicker if they do it.
- Managers also admit struggling with delegation, with 35% saying they struggled to let go of control, 35% saying they didn’t feel they had the resources and 29% saying it didn’t feel fair to ask someone to do the task.
Too many other demands:
- A total of 70% said they couldn’t perform effectively as a manager because there were too many other demands on their time from elsewhere in the business.
- Other key challenges to performing effectively included lack of direction from management above (29%), too few resources (37%) and their team didn’t have the necessary skills (21%).
What they felt would help:
- Most managers wanted to see better development programmes (50%), a clearer understanding of expectations as a manager (50%) and opportunities to discuss challenges and ideas with other first line managers (40%).
- Other priorities for management support included assessments to identify skills gaps (22%), regular meetings with their manager (30%), mentoring with a designated manager (34%) and support from an external coach (28%).
Most managers were eager to learn more and become better managers with top priorities including:
- better training;
- a greater understanding of the expectations of being a manager;
- support with time management; help to improve self-confidence;
- help with coaching and understanding others; and
- support to manage people around conflict resolution, poor performance, delegating tasks and coaching and mentoring.
A global manufacturing organisation in the offshore oil and gas sector, worked with h2h to develop a programme that enhanced managers’ skills and created a pipeline of effective future leaders. Their Managing Director said:
“The impact of properly developing and supporting our managers has been massive.
“It has provided the company with a brand new language that allows us all to communicate in ways we’d never managed before. That ensures everyone in the organisation understands the journey and we all work together to achieve it.”
“Businesses have already recognised the talent by rewarding key people with management roles. However, many are then failing to fully utilise this potential by not providing clarity on the new role, relevant leadership and management development and on the job support.
“Managers clearly have the appetite to do more but may lack the confidence and abilities they need to effectively manage themselves and their team. This survey should be a wake up call to businesses in the UK. We must all do more to make sure our managers are helping us to succeed.”