UK business leaders lack people management skills says HR group

Many human resource professionals believe business leaders in the UK do not have the people management skills needed to get the best from their workforce.

So concludes a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a professional body for human resource (HR) and people development.

The CIPD collaborated on the survey with Workday, a company that provides organizations with cloud-based applications for finance and HR.

people management skills in leadersThe report suggests outdated concepts about career development are one reason that leaders have ineffective people management skills. Image: pixabay-1000934

The survey – HR Outlook: Winter 2016-17 – reveals that while many HR professionals think the leaders of their organizations have high technical, financial, and operational skills, these are not necessarily matched by an effective level of people management skills.

However, the HR profession itself also comes in for some criticism; the survey reveals some HR departments are not serving their organizational leaders and managers as well as they should, as Dr. Jill Miller, Research Adviser at the CIPD, explains:

“In order for managers to make evidence-based people decisions, HR needs to share its workforce insight.”

Leaders more competent in other business skills

Over 600 HR professionals of all levels of seniority and whose responsibilities included UK-based operations took part in the survey.

The key findings include:

– HR professionals voted performance management and people management as the top leadership attributes that organizations are going to need over the next 3 years
– However, more than half (53 percent) said the leaders of their organizations had inadequate performance management ability and 44 percent said their people management skills were ineffective
– HR professionals said their organizations’ leaders had effective technical, budgeting and financial management, and operational management skills
– However, they only put one of these – budgeting and financial management – in the ten most important leadership attributes their organizations will need over the next 3 years

‘Outdated career development models’ to blame

Dr. Miller suggests that a “reason for the difference between rhetoric and reality in leadership skills is the use of outdated career development models where the only way to progress at work is by taking on people management responsibility.”

Not everyone who is technically very competent wants to take their career down the people management route.

Dr. Miller suggests organizations should make it possible for them to advance on a technical career path.

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

Managers not receiving formal training when taking on HR functions

The survey also looked at what happened in organizations that had transferred some of their people management responsibilities away from the HR function onto line managers. This was the case for half of the survey respondents.

It found that in those cases, fewer than half (44 percent) of the line managers who had taken on such responsibilities had received any formal training. Also, only 60 percent received ongoing tailored support.

Dr. Miller says in the main it is a good thing to see line managers taking on some people management functions from HR – they are often the best-placed to carry them out, for instance, as in dealing with day-to-day issues such as managing absence.

However, she says the fact of giving managers such duties does not automatically endow them with the skills to carry them out effectively.

“Even those with great potential as people managers will still require training to become the best they can be in the role,” she adds, “Under a great manager, a great team will flourish.”

HR analytics offers valuable insights for decision makers

The survey also suggests that many organizations – by denying them access to HR data – are not giving their leaders and managers the opportunity to make informed business decisions. HR analytics can offer facts and figures and important insights to the business.

The survey found that many organizations using HR analytics were not sharing it with decision makers. Of these, 26 percent of senior leaders, 45 percent of line managers, and 51 percent of compliance professionals had no access to HR analytics.

Action points for HR professionals

Dr. Miller says the findings point to several things that HR professionals need to act on in their organizations, including:

– show the value of HR
– use HR data to strengthen decision-making based on evidence
– make better use of technology
– help their organizations prepare for economic uncertainty and trends such as: globalization, Brexit, demand for flexible working, changing demographics
– adapt to the changing needs and aspirations of the workforce
– improve people management skills in the organization