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Jon Kennard


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Insight: Middle managers struggling to deliver corporate vision for L&D


In a survey commissioned by Sheffield Business School at Sheffield Hallam University with 153 corporate leaders, most companies (62%) say they are either aspiring to be a ‘best company to work for’ or have achieved this already. Yet more than half of businesses (59%) say the amount of training – other than required by regulation – should be more. 

Lynda Hinxman, assistant dean at Sheffield Hallam University business school, said: “From our discussions with business leaders we have identified three key issues. Corporates have had to become such lean operations in the recession that there is little time or money to train. Middle managers do not always recognise their critical role in developing the next generation of leaders – and many do not have the skills to do this. 

“And corporates are spending too much on training - particularly for regulatory purposes - that is not linked to delivering strategic business goals. That is an issue for everyone in this sector, including universities.”

The survey included some questions just for leaders of the largest corporates. In this smaller sample, nearly half (47%) said their chief executives have a passion for learning and development and are personally committed to its importance. A further 47% admitted that while their chief executives believe in the importance of learning, it is not a key priority.

When asked if middle managers have the skills to develop future leaders, 47% said not, against 40% who thought they did. And nearly all (93%) said that middle managers are critical to the development of future leaders within their businesses.

The barriers to doing more training are budget (69%), allowing time off to do training (44%) and cover for jobs while being trained (40%). Only 38% said they were doing enough training to achieve their corporate vision.

Hinxman added: “Learning and development is no longer a ‘nice to have’ in corporates, but middle managers are facing major challenges to deliver this learning aspiration.

“Our own priority is to ensure training and development delivers business performance - but we have further to go. We have developed two new tools which will address some of the issues highlighted in this report – a process for talent identification and tools to develop the emotional intelligence of leaders – as well as more work-based learning. Clearly this is an area we all need to prioritise.”

Further research published on 26 September 2013 by the CIPD revealed that 36% of line managers have not received any training for their role, and that time for effective line management is too often squeezed or lost in favour of more immediate task oriented priorities. 

Sheffield Hallam University is the third largest university in the UK. The business school works with corporates such as Nestlé, Post Office, AstraZeneca, Kier, NHS, Youngman Group and Initial Rentokil, with 90% of its staff having worked in or with industry.

The survey was carried out by Sheffield Business School at Sheffield Hallam University in late spring of 2013 in partnership with An Inspirational Journey. It is available to download from

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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