Four out of five British managers are not good enough

British Managers get serious about running a business

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Acknowledgement: The Economist newspaper

THE low productivity of British workers has several possible culprits. Inefficient family-run companies are sometimes blamed, as are poor workforce skills. But whereas these problems are well documented, another factor is glossed over: the mediocre performance of British managers. John van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, argues that the standard of British management is “significantly below” that in leading countries.

His team carried out 14,000 interviews with employees around the world and found that British workers rated their supervisors lower than those in countries such as America, Germany and Japan (see chart). “We are not in the premier league,” he says.

Management as a skill has rarely been taken seriously in Britain, where the cult of the gifted amateur prevails. Ann Francke, the head of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), says that four out of five bosses are “accidental managers”: they are good at their jobs but are then promoted into managing a team or a department, without further training. Unsurprisingly, “they flounder”, she says. Mr van Reenen reckons that about half the productivity gap between Britain and America could be attributed to poor management.

 

British culture of management training not good enough

“Management training is culturally perceived as something to deliver if performance isn’t good enough in many SME businesses,” says Jon Dean, the managing director of Impellus, “Whereas in higher performing businesses and organisations management training is cherished and seen as a part of the continuous professional development of managers. These organisations always perform more strongly and deliver better and more consistent financial results”.

“Managers who have studied leadership and management will make better decisions, hire and retain the best staff and will consider the efficiencies of their departments and organisations in line with their original strategic direction. Their employers will have fewer HR issues and find supersession less of a challenge”.

Mr van Reenen agrees that the skills that managers learn on such management training courses are crucial. Britain’s many mismanaged employees would be better off if British managers were trained.