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How assessment can improve management skills


According to research from BT Business in 2009, management failures were behind more than two-fifths of staff resignations. Mary Clarke discusses the future of management training.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) recently questioned 5,000 adults about how they view their managers. Only 10% described their bosses as accessible, while just 7% said their leaders are empowering.
Worryingly, half the people questioned believed they could do a better job than their bosses and an equal number were willing to take a pay cut to work with a better manager. Management style was also seen as a problem in many companies. A fifth of employees claimed their managers are authoritarian and half said that there was a dominant style of management in their organisation. In addition, many people don’t trust their managers with a staggering eight out of ten workers claiming they wouldn’t turn to their boss if they had a problem at work.

The management training shortage

But the blame can't all be laid at the door of managers. It seems that at the heart of these problems is the fact that managers aren't getting the training and development they need. The CMI survey also revealed that 63% of managers claimed they had received no formal management training and many said they were 'accidental' managers who had not set out to manage a team. But one thing is certain in light of the slow economic recovery; if companies want to remain competitive, strong management is needed that is able to improve performance, productivity and employee engagement so the training and development of managers needs to be prioritised.
"Managers aren't getting the training and development they need."
One of the obvious barriers preventing companies training managers recently is reductions in corporate training budgets. The 'Learning and Talent Development survey 2010' from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that 52% of companies decreased their training funds last year. However, on a positive note, learning and development professionals were still committed to providing core training and in particular, management training. 65% said that developing leadership skills was their number one priority this year and 55% said they will prioritise the development of frontline people management skills. The research also revealed that performance management and leading and managing change were considered the major skills gaps in the majority of companies. 
Another challenge preventing companies from delivering effective management training is that many business leaders are simply unaware of how poor the management in their companies actually is. Many employees are promoted to management level in companies because they performed well in their previous roles. And, as research suggests, the majority of managers have not had any specific training in their new roles and their skills and knowledge haven't been tested. This means they are unaware of their skills gaps, weaknesses or the training they need and equally, their bosses are in the dark. 

Regular assessment

One simple solution for leaders and managers to gain this insight is for managers to undertake regular assessments that assess their skills, competence and confidence performing their roles. Information gleaned from such assessments will highlight how well they are performing, how competent they are and any areas of weakness which can be addressed with suitable training interventions. Management assessments can cover a full range of core competencies and test managers in areas such as performance management, employee engagement or change management. Such assessments will paint an accurate picture of how competent a manager actually is. This is because assessments place individuals in common scenarios that are typical in their job to gauge how they would act in such situations and the judgement they would use. Assessments highlight skills and knowledge gaps which can be addressed to improve skills and reduce the risk of managers making mistakes that could prove costly to the business.
Employee assessments also reveal top performers who can be used in other areas of the business where they can add most value. Often these people are the most knowledgeable in a company and can also be used to mentor or coach their peers, which is an additional benefit. 
"If engagement levels rise, it stands to reason that employee productivity levels are likely to follow"
But one of greatest benefits of management assessments is that it helps managers develop greater self-awareness of how they engage and interact with others and this can be vital in improving employee engagement and motivation levels and something that is needed in many companies in the current economic climate. If engagement levels rise, it stands to reason that employee productivity levels are likely to follow.


To compete globally, the UK needs first class managers who are able to inspire, engage and improve the performance of their workforce, but the first step for any company should be to assess the calibre of their management – including their skills, performance and confidence performing their roles. Without this knowledge, business leaders are in the dark and many poor management practices will go unnoticed.
Mary Clarke is a mathematics graduate from Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh and has spent over twenty years in the IT and Telecommunications industry. She has developed a number of businesses from start-up in the UK and Far-East and is now CEO of Cognisco

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