• International Workplace
  • 24 January 2017

CIPD: Senior leaders lack skills to manage and develop people

Headline findings in the latest HR Outlook survey from CIPD reveal that many HR professionals believe leaders in their organisation don’t have the behaviours and skills needed to get the best from their people. Their technical, financial and operational competence is high, but many leaders are deemed ineffective at performance management, people management and developing people.

Produced in association with Workday, the survey’s findings are based on responses from 629 HR professionals across all levels of seniority. The survey report provides a snapshot of members’ opinions and examines the topics, trends and challenges currently affecting the HR profession.

The headline finding is that around half of HR professionals believe that senior business leaders don’t have the people management behaviours and skills needed to get the best from their people.

Performance management and people management were voted the top leadership behaviours and skills needed by organisations over the next three years. However, out of those who chose performance management, more than half (53%) said senior leaders’ current skills in this area were ineffective. Similarly, 44% of HR professionals felt senior leaders’ people management skills were ineffective.

Leaders were instead rated as being most effective on technical ability, budgeting and financial management, and operational management; only one of which (budgeting and financial management) was included in the top ten leadership behaviours and skills needed in the next three years.

Furthermore, in organisations where line managers have taken on new people management responsibilities devolved from the HR function (50% of respondents), less than half (44%) are given any formal training, and only three in five (60%) are given ongoing tailored support.

Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

“Given that a business is its people, it’s very concerning that leaders are rated so poorly on their people management and development capabilities. In order to lead people effectively, leaders need to have a variety of skills – but while technical skills are critical in organisations, they do not always go hand-in-hand with people skills. Organisations need to respond to this mismatch by making targeted investment in their leadership’s people management capability. A strong talent pipeline, which promotes both strong people management and technical excellence, will support people to reach their full potential at work and is essential for a sustainable and high-performing business.

“One reason for the difference between rhetoric and reality in leadership skills is the use of outdated career development models where the only way to progress at work is by taking on people management responsibility. Technically-based career progression should also be possible for those who don’t want to manage people or don’t feel it’s in their skill set. That way, organisations can still offer career advancement, but in a way that ensures they have the right people with the right skills in the right places.”

Download the latest CIPD HR Outlook report