Lack of faith in senior managers is exposed

UK organisations are being hampered by serious weaknesses in the people skills of senior management, research has revealed.

The findings, which coincide with today’s launch of the seventh annual National Leadership Week, highlight the need for a reassessment of the relationship between senior managers and their staff, experts said.

Heavyweight speakers such as Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair and head of the Civil Service Andrew Turnbull are speaking at series of events this week, designed to highlight the best in UK leadership. But less than a third (31%) of employees in the UK have trust and confidence in the job being done by their organisation’s leaders, according to a survey of 3,000 UK staff by business consultancy Watson Wyatt.

Last week’s report came days after Personnel Today exclusively revealed that more than four out of five employees at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have no confidence in senior management.

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) further highlighted the problem, with 41% of respondents to its Employee Well-being and the Psychological Contract survey saying they had little or no trust in senior managers to look after their interests.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, admitted that some senior managers did not realise times had changed and that position no longer means automatic respect from staff.

Chapman said the three things staff look for in their leaders were: a genuine shared vision; real confidence and trust in teams; and respect for employees, colleagues and customers.

Mike Emmott, head of employee relations at the CIPD, said there were few occupational groups that enjoyed a high level of trust at senior level.

“The people elements in UK management are often neglected,” he said. “[Managers] concern themselves first with hitting targets and managing people is often an activity for spare time,” he said.

HR clearly has a role to play improving the people skills of senior management, but training may not be the answer.

A study by Saratoga, the human capital arm of global professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that while 1.03bn was invested in leadership training and development across Europe in 2003, there was little evidence that this investment was demonstrating any major return.

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