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A new world for business: Part 2


The business world is changing and UK management needs to adapt to lead organisations out of recession, all of which has huge implications and challenges for L&D. Ruth Spellman OBE concludes her opinion piece.


A radical approach

Of course times are tough but now, more than ever, the economic, social and political challenges we face demand a radical approach. So much evidence suggests that where employers take responsibility for management development, where it is demand-led and competency driven, employee engagement, performance and productivity all improve. Your role must be to ensure the boardroom understands this strategic imperative.

Yet this begs a question – how can L&D professionals combat the widening skills gap from decreased investment in development?

"If UK Plc is to survive and thrive in a new world for business, surely attention must be focused on building partnerships to create a diverse talent pool for the future."

In the crudest terms your starting point must be to define needs because the board will, after all, want to focus on the goals laid out in the business plan. Think about what measures are in place to identify current gaps and future needs, and perhaps begin with the knowledge – gained from a joint research project published earlier this month by CMI and CIPD - that just 14% of UK managers believe their organisation is well prepared to cope with an ageing workforce. It may be common knowledge that the workforce, as a whole is ageing, but unless you know the exact scenario your organisation faces, can you really claim to be ready to advise on which skills may be lost and who to develop? Certainly, the report argues that the lack of board-level recognition about the value of older workers means supportive policies are not in place and managers on the front line do not receive adequate training for managing older workers.

CMI has also examined talent management in organisations up and down the UK. Having explored the views of line managers and L&D professionals, a report argued that many employers confuse performance with talent management, using achievements to indicate future potential. Yet just 31% of respondents were confident that their appraisal system accurately identifies high potential individuals. Key questions, then, should be 'how useful is past performance as a predictor of future success?' and 'what data can HR measure to meet long-term needs?'.

But taking responsibility for developing skills goes beyond managing talent and must involve attracting and retaining the best people. CMI's latest National Management Salary Survey suggests that 3% of organisations have lost their best staff through a failure to provide training and development. Worryingly, even at a time when the ratio of job applicants to vacancies has widened, 46% claim they can't fill their vacancies. Both statistics would be worrying at the best of times, but with jobs hard to come by, they are a shocking condemnation of employers' current approach to their staff, and the implication is that HR may not yet be doing enough to boost employee engagement or build the brand as 'an employer of choice'.

It certainly seems that UK Plc is woefully under-prepared for challenges it faces. That there is acceptance about the existence of a skills gap is not in question, but why employers and educators continue to play a blame game remains unanswered. It's a pity because, if UK Plc is to survive and thrive in a new world for business, surely attention must be focused on building partnerships to create a diverse talent pool for the future.

The L&D community is ideally placed to take responsibility for making this next step, and it's an opportunity worth grabbing – to demonstrate the strategic value that L&D brings to the table and to ensure that, once we all know the details of the Comprehensive Spending Review, UK Plc is in a position to dominate a new world of business.”

You can read part 1 here

Ruth is chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute and will deliver the opening address at the World of Learning Conference, the UK's leading dedicated L&D event. The conference is part of the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition, which takes place at the NEC Birmingham on 28 and 29 September.

Ruth will be speaking on a topic entitled 'A new world for business?' and examining the implications and challenges for L&D professionals at the World of Learning Conference on 28 September. To register for free entry to the World of Learning Exhibition, or to book your place on the World of Learning Conference, visit or call +44 (0)20 8394 5171.

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