No-one within the HR community should have been surprised, this time last year, when the Interim Leitch Review of Skills suggested that the UK’s managers were significantly under-qualified. But, given the level of national corporate investment in training and development programmes, it is a concern that the situation has been allowed to continue.
Surveys in the past year have indicated that our managers and leaders are ambitious and want to do well. Our own research suggests that individuals have an, as yet unsatiated, appetite for reaching their potential, but they believe their organisations are failing to help them reach their goals.
What appears to be missing is the link between understanding that achieving potential is important, and the provision of appropriate training and development to ensure talent does not go untapped. If this continues, it will affect organisational performance and individuals will move on, taking their skills and drive with them.
This gap has expanded because there is still far too much training for its own sake, or ad hoc programmes that are not tailored to the long-term goals of the organisation (remaining competitive in a fast-changing business environment) or the aspirations of individuals (acquiring skills so they can take on new responsibilities and challenges).
The problem comes down to what HR can do to align these individual concerns with those of the organisation.
The profession is certainly becoming accepted by other departments for the vital role it can play in strategic development – and rightly so. But, to really make an impact, the onus must be on HR to drive performance by providing organisations with structured development programmes that have tangible measures attached.
But even this is only part of the answer.
To have genuine impact, HR teams must begin the process earlier, ensuring that recruitment is linked to the organisational plan. It’s too easy to recruit people with good skills because they fill an urgent vacancy. But what happens if those skills are already present in a team? What if the scope of the role is no longer right for the strategic goals? In simple terms, the skills gap within a business widens, motivation declines and the ability to achieve success diminishes.
Ask the majority of HR professionals and they will say that there is a need to provide practical help if individuals are to succeed. But our research suggests that managers see professional qualifications, networking and cross-functional working as most helpful for career development.
Regrettably, the same respondents believe they are held back by bureaucracy, having poor strategic direction and little in the way of relevant training. In other words, they feel their needs are misunderstood. Failing to address this will only lead to disquiet as managers are developed in areas they don’t see as adding value to the business.
To help individuals achieve their potential, opportunities for personal and professional development must be found. If that means enlisting external support or building tailored programmes, it is essential that HR works with the business units, but takes control and creates an environment in which individuals can grow.
The ability to achieve potential is clearly at the forefront of both the individual’s and the employer’s thoughts. With only 20% of the UK’s management community boasting a professional qualification, it should be a comfort to HR that managers are actively seeking ways to improve. If individuals and organisations are to prosper, this situation must be addressed.
By Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs, Chartered Management Institute