UK managers lack some of most desired leadership skills, research finds


UK managers are ill equipped to lead and get the best from their people, according to surveys from the CIPD and recruitment company Robert Half.

Robert Half’s poll of 200 HR directors revealed that half would like to see candidates for management roles show greater leadership skills.

It also discovered that almost one in five management candidates fall short on planning skills, 15% lacked function skills for their job, and 14% lacked communication skills.

The latest HR Outlook survey from the CIPD reached a similar conclusion.

While performance management and people management were voted the “top leadership behaviours” needed by organisations in the next three years, 53% said leaders’ performance management skills were ineffective, and 44% felt leaders failed to make the grade at people management.

More than 80% felt that leaders were effective at technical skills, and 73% felt they were effective at budgeting and financial management.

In the Robert Half survey, 49% of HR directors felt staff-level (non-manager) workers could improve their functional skills, compared with just 15% at management level.

Almost one-fifth (18%) of Robert Half’s poll respondents felt managers could be better at strategic planning.

Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, said the perceived lack of leadership skills at the top was “very concerning”.

“In order to lead people effectively, leaders need to have a variety of skills – but while technical skills are critical in organisations, they do not always go hand-in-hand with people skills.

“Organisations need to respond to this mismatch by making targeted investment in their leadership’s people management capability.

“A strong talent pipeline, which promotes both strong people management and technical excellence, will support people to reach their full potential at work and is essential for a sustainable and high-performing business.”

When it came to choosing candidates, one of the main factors continues to be job interview performance, with 29% of Robert Half’s survey sample citing this as important.

Almost half (45%) of HR directors place greater emphasis on technical skills when looking for non-management candidates than on softer skills, it found.

Phil Sheridan, senior managing director at Robert Half UK, said addressing the skills gap at management level was essential for organisations to meet their goals.

“When adding new professionals to their team, hiring managers base their decisions on different criteria, depending on the level of seniority of the role.

“Professional experience and functional skills are the most important factors for hiring managers recruiting for staff level roles, in comparison to the emphasis on leadership skills for management level.

“One thing that is clear from both is the need for new hires to add value from day one and support the business objectives.”

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