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Bosses Hold Back 21st Century Working Practices


Leaders need training to manage the growing army of remote workers, a new report commissioned by City & Guilds and the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) states.

The Tomorrow’s Leaders study, undertaken by Henley Management College, shows that managers are struggling to reinvent their working patterns to get the best from remote workers, with visibility and presenteeism still used to judge performance.

Three quarters (73%) of managers say flexible working is common in their organisation, and, more strikingly, 37% of all managers now look after teams who are either entirely or predominantly based away from the office.

However, although the majority of managers are working with teams that include remote workers, nearly half (44%) of respondents say managers are unprepared for the supervision of remote teams, and only 25% had received any training on how to manage such a team.

While nearly 75% of managers believe remote workers are more productive, and 90% say they trust their remote employees, a third also confess to wanting to monitor their employees closely - just to make sure.

Chris Humphries, director general of City & Guilds, said: “Our research shows that bosses are highly sympathetic to the notion of flexible working, but in practice find it difficult to break the mind set of ‘presenteeism’. The UK’s professional culture is still built on long hours – if you’re visible, you’re accountable. In reality, this means we reward people who take a long time to get the job done, rather than those who do it most effectively.”

Kim Parish, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management added: “Our experience at ILM shows how much we need to keep the training of our managers up to date. While new technology allows massive changes to our working patterns, the behaviour of some managers and team members lags behind. Managers need new skills and attitudes to ensure they reap the benefits of flexible and remote working. This is just one of the areas where modern management and leadership qualifications, like those of ILM, can improve the performance of managers and organisations.”

The survey highlighted particular skills gaps around communication and team bonding, as well as appropriate use of emerging technologies. Long distance, virtual relationships with staff members can be demanding, and one third of the managers participating in the study confessed that they needed to improve the way they communicated with their teams. In addition, while 62% of managers say their IT systems support remote working, half of respondents believe they are not exploiting the networking technology to the full. Under 20% use audio conferencing and instant messaging, and only 10% use video conferencing.

Peter Thomson, director of the Future Work Forum Henley Management College, said: “Today’s managers are very aware of the commercial and competitor advantages associated with more flexible employers, however they are struggling to turn theory into practice and clearly need support to adapt their supervision styles. Businesses will begin to look for leaders rather than micro-managers – inspiring from a distance rather than giving hands-on direction. There are some clear skills around this that can be taught, but managers have to first accept that much of what they’ve learnt in the first stages of their careers will evolve as the shape of the workplace changes.”

* To download the Tomorrow’s Leaders Report visit


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