Everyone has, at some stage, reported to a line manager who is not up to the
job. It seems there are still a lot of them about – Ricky Gervais’s creation
David Brent in the BBC’s The Office, may have been a wonderful parody, but he
also revealed painful truths about the antics of UK managers.
Our exclusive research (see right) goes some way towards defining the scale
of the problem, using the views of HR managers in some of the UK’s biggest
employers. If you needed a wake up call to spur you into action, this is it.
The most troubling finding is HR’s concern that line managers lack the core
skills to take the business forward in the next three to five years – their
weakest areas being absence management, performance management, leadership,
coping with change and people management.
Failure to make line managers accountable for managing people continues to
be widespread. HR is bogged down in correcting managers’ mistakes, firefighting
on their behalf, averting costly legal cases and handling admin they know will
be ignored if left to the line. All the time HR spends doing this, leaves less
capacity to concentrate on a strategic role and little chance of progressive HR
policies ever making a real operational impact.
Equally disturbing is the fact that less than a quarter of our survey’s
respondents rated their line managers as good or excellent at coaching and
mentoring. Yet there is widespread acceptance that coaching is a key tool in
establishing culture change and is an effective way of getting people to learn
Something has to change and quickly. Line managers are the vital link
between HR and the rest of the business delivering improved performance. HR
cannot allow the status quo to continue. HR needs to combine operational
excellence with a strategic approach that meets business goals. Line managers
are your number one tool for delivering employee engagement and that has to be
the key goal for most organisations.
And finally, if anyone knows why the UK has more managers than any other
European country, then please let us know. Is it to do with our business
culture? Or is it borne out of hierarchies of inadequacy among people in power
all trying to cover their own backs?