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Upskilling your managers – how important really is it?

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Upskilling your managers – how important really is it?

Last month I presented an ILM accredited management training course to the managers of a multimillion-pound business. As is often the case, they start the day somewhat sceptical. I can see them thinking, ‘do I need to be here?’, ‘I could be out selling rather than being sat here all day’, and ‘I’ve got 101 emails to attend to’.
It’s not an uncommon reaction to the prospect of a day’s management training. Often the attendees are there because they’ve been told they must be, rather than because they want to be. Of course, as the day goes on, my job is to change that dynamic and thankfully, that tends to happen.
In a similar way to attendees often approaching the day with some scepticism, I have also experienced many businesses approaching it the same way. Only when something goes wrong to shock the business into action, does training then make its way to the forefront of a board’s thinking. Up until then, it sits right at the back of the room, often not prioritised or valued.
This reaction to management training got me thinking. Why is it that it is initially seen as an inconvenience, or from the business’s perspective, way down the priority list, rather than an important development opportunity and investment for both the individual and the business?
From the business point of view, I suppose the main reason for this is that resources are precious in SME world, and training and investment with the management team doesn’t provide an immediate return (so the story goes). Whilst the same could be said for many marketing initiatives for example, for some reason the two don’t often get compared like for like.
Perhaps partly to blame is how the Government view management training. Only last week the Government published the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which aims to create more routes into skilled employment and will introduce a “legal requirement that employers and colleges collaborate” and develop skills plans that will meet the needs of local areas.
However, in response and critical of the fact that the legislation makes no mention of management training, research published by the Learning and Work Institute (LWI) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) said good management was critical in helping low-skilled and younger employees – two of the key demographics targeted by the government’s policy – stay and thrive in the workplace.
My own experience over the last 10 years leads me to believe that not prioritising the training of managers is a big, costly mistake. Managers are absolutely critical not just in helping low-skilled and younger employees thrive in the workplace, but in fact to the overall success of the entire organisation.
Managers are the front line, the ones on the ground making day to day decisions, dealing with HR issues within their team, motivating, measuring, organising. The list goes on.
Anecdotally, I find that many people are promoted to management simply by virtue of the fact that they have been at the business for a number of years. No investment is made by the business in preparing that person for management, and subsequently they fail at management. Whose fault is that?
To compound the problem, not only is the business paying a premium on a salary for supposed management responsibility that is rarely demonstrated, but it also possible that the employee in question was in fact much more effective ‘on the tools’ – of which they are now doing less of because they are supposedly managing. A double-whammy negative effect.
If a board considers that an engaged employee is productive 80% of a working week, and a disengaged employee only 20% of a working week, it really puts into sharp focus the direct impact managers can have on productivity across an entire team or business. If engagement drops, productivity drops, profits drop.
To address a question I posed to myself earlier, perhaps the reason managers approach a management training course with scepticism, is because of how the concept of training has been promoted to them by the business. Unless those at the top believe in the power and investment of training and upskilling, and sell that vision and belief to the staff, the team are less likely to buy into themselves.
As we approach the middle of 2021, following one of the most disruptive years in modern history because of the pandemic, it has never been more important for businesses to remain super competitive. I have always believed that business is people. Without people, there is no business. If you believe the same, then it follows that investing is those people is one of the most important business decisions you can make.

Author: Gavin Howarth, Managing Director of Howarths
At Howarths, we offer a range of different training and upskilling opportunities for managers. One of our most popular courses is the ILM Accredited, Essential Skills for Managers. At £250 per person, you wouldn’t go far wrong in sending your managers on this course to either get them set for management or provide a much needed refresher. Contact Justine on 01274 864999 for information on dates and how to book.


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