On the whole the mood is upbeat, particularly when findings are compared with those of similar studies conducted in 1994 and 1996. Yet the report also shows there are continuing great gaps between what companies say they hope to achieve and what has actually been done – they might have written the policy, but they have yet to build a consistent framework with which to back it up.
Where possible, the IM has attempted to track the progress made by individual companies over this period – nearly half of the 500 HR managers interviewed were from the same organisations as those it interviewed in 1996. The IM also interviewed 500 line managers and senior board members from 20 companies.
• Management training, if undertaken in a consistent and systematic way, does have an impact on financial performance. Sixty per cent of those who gave management training a high priority and acted upon it also reported an increase in financial turnover compared with others in their sector. Of those companies that gave lower priority to management training, only 46 per cent reported higher turnover.
• Although UK businesses are beginning to recognise that training is an investment, not a cost, only 40 per cent had actually implemented an explicit management training budget – and most of the HR managers surveyed had no idea of how much had been actually spent. Nonetheless the current situation represents a significant improvement on previous years. More companies reported they had taken steps to formalise the training they offered and had also upped the time set aside for it.
• The demand for management skills is growing. Although technical “hard skills” such as financial management are still seen as important, the most sought after skills are “soft” – managing people, leadership, team working and customer focus. The IM claims there has been a distinct shift in training policy in many organisations. Instead of focusing on high-fliers, companies are aiming to develop strong management skills throughout the organisation. Many respondents admitted these skills were also the hardest to deliver – more than 80 per cent claimed that lack of time was a strong factor in preventing management training. Nearly half also cited cost.
• Why train? The most common reasons given were to help managers do their job better or progress further up the organisation. Typically, only those organisations that had implemented more formal policies took a broader view, claiming that corporate strategy was the major driver. Nonetheless, most respondents continued to relegate training to third place, behind “inherent ability/personality” and job experience, when it came to defining what makes a good manager.
• More companies are now formally reviewing the effectiveness of their training programmes (72 per cent compared with 67 per cent previously).
• The survey demonstrated the continuing divergence in attitudes between HR managers and line managers when it came to assessing training needs. Most HR professionals saw appraisals as the best means of identifying training needs, but line managers took a more hands-on, informal approach.
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