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Training is key for management within professional organisations

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  •  It is an undisputed fact of business that within an organisation there is a direct correlation between the quality of management applied and the quality of the results achieved. Recent reports have told us that roughly one in seven of us involved in the UK workforce hold some form of management position. Why then, in the current climate of cost management and prudence, are so many firms neglecting the training and growth of such a large percentage of their human assets.
  •  From Drucker to Prahalad, Taylor to Maslow ,colossal amounts of data and ideas have been accumulated to enhance the management of the organisations resources. Management has been around for a long time and is a mature (if inexact ) science. Why then are so many of the wealth creators of our still wounded economy ignoring management though a laissez faire “let them learn on the job” approach ?.
  •  People are the most important asset in any business. Without the correct people in place there can be no plan. In the absence of enhancing the human asset there can be no meaningful strategy .If we do not sow we cannot reap.
  •  Unfortunately too many firms have a casual attitude towards the development of their long term assets. We would not allow unplanned obselesence on our balance sheets so why do we allow it on our most precious assets, namely our people. It should be noted that I am not a peddler of doom and am not for for a moment suggesting that all organisations are neglecting their people, far from it, however I am arguing that much more could be done to gain a far greater return on our people investments. Small applications of training and coaching will have hugely beneficial results.
  •  I am going to use the example of professional firms to illustrate this. Because of the admirable historical successes of Britain’s professional firms we can often assume that as a sector they are run in a word class manner, and in the main this is true, Britain has an incredible reputation in professional services, but look below the outward veneer of sustained excellence and economic resilience, peer past  for a moment, the gleaming office palaces and the slick operations conducted within, and pause for a moment to reflect on what could be.
  •  It is difficult to criticise the professional behemoths that are such an integral part of Britain’s service economy but my basic premise is that these firms could be creating so much more by paying a little more attention to management at the micro level . If we examine sectors such as legal and accounting we see micro management practices where the prevailing management attitude is one that springs from the traditions and the embedded cultures of these firms. From this three things become apparent.
  •  Firstly , partners have had to work incredibly hard under incredible stress and pressure to get to the position they are at, hence once there, this belief system is passed down the line to the employees that they manage.
  •  Secondly, professional firms are exceptional at looking after their clients as this is where their fee generation capacity comes from ,yet you wonder if a modicum of this relationship building was incorporated into more effective management of their employees how much more productive a firm might be ?.
  •  Finally, professionals work huge hours for huge reward. New recruits enter the system with their eyes open as to what will be expected of them in order to reach partnership levels. The career path is linear, do what we ask you to do with talent and application and you can make partner. A prevailing attitude of “get on with it and learn” often rules and a premium is placed on technical and client management skills.
  •  My basic is premise is this. What if a new thinking doctrine were applied to professional organisations ? Instead of work harder, work smarter, instead of the old cultures, re-engineer new ones. Out with the old in with the new. Why not balance fee earning and technical development with strategic development of people. Why not apply the people skills of client relations to employee relations. Why not question the old adage that number of hours worked is a benchmark of career progression? Technical skills are a prerequisite but why not people management skills to sit comfortably alongside ?.
  •  People work better when they truly feel involved as a stakeholder. This corollary can be flimsy at first but grows with the employees professional and technical development. Surely there is an argument for accepting this and devoting resource to developing young professionals in their formative years. By engendering a spirit of communication and involvement, by building a culture of feedback and effective delegation, the future of the firm is more secure and the human asset is developed not eroded ?.
  •  Effective supervision needs to be replaced by effective management. Morale, productivity, employee retention and corporate culture will become more effective. The feeling of being valued and involved within a great team is a strong one and often as strong as remuneration.
  •  Human resource departments have a role to play but it’s a subservient role if the pervading culture is of the traditional kind. Professional firms are also in an incredibly advantageous position to do this. The partner/ associate gearing of these firms is often very low compared to industry. With a low number of direct reports the partner has an enormous opportunity to directly grow their people and hence challenge the existing management structures. Is it too ambitious to eliminate the costs incurred by disgruntled leavers, have a zero churn rate of bright energetic employees and build a “cradle to grave” employment cycle?. Professional firms should be best placed to achieve this. Use of external trainers to coach these skills is a first step in this management volte face. These skills are easy to be learned but often not simple to be applied.
  •  Communication, involvement, delegation, feedback, development, talent growth, management, coaching, mentoring and evaluation are all skills that a trainer can grow and these will enhance a professional firm in the coming years as well making them more attractive to both talented future joiners and talented professionals looking to defect from their current firms.
  •  It’s a classic win-win situation as the partner gets a more dynamic employee base and the employee experiences personal as well as technical enhancement. What could be a better outcome than making the firm a place where the people are best equipped to manage current client workload but also creates an environment to attract the people that will allow it to build its client base?.
  •  These soft skill changes may not become manifest until another generation has passed through the firm, but isn’t that a function of the great leader…..creating the future ?.
 Simon Kenny is Director Sales and Leadership of Skills4Sales.com. Simon had 11 years senior management experience at FTSE 100 levels specialising the management of sales,marketing,customer retention and CRM.He holds an M.A in business and economics

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