UK health sector staff say over a third of managers ‘ineffective’

A new report from a professional body reveals staff working in the UK’s health and social care sector consider 38% of their managers to be ineffective.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) report, which reviews the state of management and leadership in the health and social care sector, also finds there are problems at senior management level, where over 4 in 10 (43%) of managers are deemed ineffective by their subordinates.

The CMI report finds lower than average investment in the development of health sector managers and leaders, compounded by the promotion of insufficiently trained clinicians into management roles, to be contributing factors.

The report draws on research conducted by the CMI and Penna, involving nearly 5,000 people across all management levels. The researchers carried out a survey plus focus groups, interviews and case studies.

The CMI says that where investment in management skills and support takes place – and the money is accompanied by implementing best practices in management and HR – organizational performance in the health and social care sector rises by nearly a third (29%), and productivity by nearly a quarter (23%). Organizational performance refers to how well an organization is currently doing compared to its goals and objectives.

Health sector management skills investment lower than in other sectors

But the report reveals such investment in this sector is nearly 25% lower than in other sectors, amounting to £1,075 ($1,760) per manager per year. This compares with an average of £1,414 ($2,310) across all sectors.

And it also suggests the training that is provided is not necessarily what managers need.

For example, while managers said training via accredited learning and qualifications was the most effective route, more often than not what they actually received was on-the-job training or delivered via internal development programmes, which they described as the least effective routes.

An analysis of the most and least effective management skills shows that managers are seen as most effective in those skills that they bring from their clinical background, such as knowing how the organization works.

But they are seen as least effective in other skills that managers need to do a good job such as communicating objectives and priorities, and asking for and receiving feedback on performance.

Strong management critical for the health sector

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the CMI, says:

“Bad management has damaging consequences in any sector. But in the health sector more than anywhere else, strong management and leadership is critical.”

She says of course healthcare is primarily about health professionals and treatments, but too often what is overlooked is the importance of management, adding that:

“This report shows too many health and social care managers are ineffective, resulting in a lack of employee engagement, poor service and low patient satisfaction. The way we train and recruit health sector managers needs to change.”

Although the report points to much needed improvement, it does not agree with the view that management in the health and social care sector in general is worse than other sectors in the UK.

Employee engagement in the sector overall, for example, was found to be comparable with the average across all sectors. 54% of health and social care workers are “highly engaged” compared with 57% across all sectors.

There is strong evidence, says the report, that developing managers and leaders in the health and social care sector reaps rewards.

Ms. Francke concludes:

“A more strategic approach to investing in developing managers and leaders in the sector is the key to raising our game. The focus must be on professional qualifications, formal training and support for anyone transitioning to a management role.”

The report also makes the following “management health check” points:

  • You don’t improve poor management by throwing money at the problem. You have to find time to build commitment, and do simple things like match what is offered to what individuals value.
  • Patient satisfaction grows when managers listen and engage with staff who in turn are more satisfied, feel a higher sense of wellbeing, and are off sick less often.
  • Investing in the development of managers and leaders has knock-on effects. Good managers encourage staff to better themselves with development and qualifications, and by helping them stretch to attain new goals, they make work interesting and satisfying.

You can download the report A Management and Leadership Health-Check after completing a short form on the CMI website.