By Melissa J. Anderson

Almost half (43%) of UK managers consider their line managers to be ineffective or highly ineffective, according to a new report released by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and HR consultancy Penna.

The study, which surveyed almost 4,500 managers, CEOs, and HR directors in the UK provided several perspectives on the importance of management leadership development (MLD) for a successful organization.

Dr. Martin Read CBE CCMI, Chair of the Research Steering Board; Non-executive director, Invensys, Aegis Group, Lloyd’s and the UK Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Board said this study has revealed insight into management training and leadership development best practices like never before.

He said that smart companies invest in training and development for managers, and given an economic outlook where they need to get the most out of employees, they would be wise to invest strategically in their people. He explained:

“With the economy stalling and the public finances in a precarious condition, the UK has rarely had a greater need for world-class management and leadership. Whether it is unlocking growth in the private sector or creating a more efficient public sector, developing the right management skills and behaviours is absolutely critical.”

The study provides advice on getting how companies can get the most from their managers. And based on the effectiveness numbers the research revealed, the majority of UK companies would benefit by taking his advice to heart.

Importance of Leadership

Dr. Read explained that the most successful companies are the ones in which leadership advocates visibly for better management development. He wrote:

“Top-performing companies align their development practices closely to their business strategy and they evaluate the effects of their investment more thoroughly. They make clear the organisation’s commitment to management development, a commitment which starts with their CEO.”

According to the study, there is a correlation between corporate performance and line manager effectiveness. “Eighty per cent of managers in high performing organisations report that their line manager is effective or highly effective, compared with 39 per cent in low performing organisations.”

Based on this data, CMI and Penna suggest that a top down commitment to people training and development can improve company-wide performance. The study explains:

“The commitment of senior leaders to MLD, demonstrated through their actions and behaviours, is associated with a 21 per cent difference in ‘people performance’. A combination of these factors – commitment to MLD, alignment to business strategy, and supporting HR practices – was found to explain as much as 32 per cent of the variation in ‘people performance’.”

Management Training

The research identified several different types of leadership development – and according to the study participants, the most common one is “on the job experience.” But that’s not the kind of leadership development that managers rate as most impactful. According to respondents, the top MLD styles are “business school qualifications, professional bodies’ qualifications and Chartered Manager.”

Younger managers rated this kind of training particularly useful, and senior managers were more likely to rate “external conferences, networks, workshops and short courses” higher. Female managers rated coaching in the top five for effective MLD, but men did not.

The study also noted that the types of MLD that most managers experienced did not line up with the types rated most effective. And the training that companies do invest in isn’t always paying off. The study says, “In addition, fewer than half of all managers (47 per cent) reported that they have current opportunities to use the skills and knowledge they have gained suggesting that organisations are failing to make the most of their investment.”

The companies with the best MLD are those that align leadership and development programming with HR goals and CEO strategy, the study revealed.

Dr. Read wrote:

“We cannot leave management development solely to HR teams and training specialists. They have an important role to play, but throughout my career I have seen the difference that the chief executive’s commitment to development can make. So I urge CEOs and MDs – of companies large and small, of public services, and of charities – to look closely at how they personally promote better management and leadership throughout their organisations.”

By aligning leadership development strategy with corporate growth goals, companies can better increase and leverage the best skills of their people.