Do UK businesses have a problem with poor management?

New data from the Chartered Management Institute shows that far too many UK managers are considered by their employees to be ineffective. Management and leadership training could help address this problem

While the past 24 months have been difficult for businesses around the world, the situation has been particularly challenging in the UK. British industry is lagging behind many of its G20 peers in key productivity metrics and employee engagement scores. At a time when action and innovation in the private sector is desperately needed, UK plc seems to be falling short.

So, what’s plaguing British business? New data from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) points to one possible explanation: ineffective management.

Far too many UK managers are perceived by the workforce to be ineffective. They lack formal training and, in many instances, confidence in their own leadership abilities. The impact of this phenomenon on business performance and innovation is significant: previous research from the CMI has found that organisational performance improves by nearly 25% when firms invest in management training. Poor management also damages employee engagement, productivity and retention. It is an existential threat for firms facing a poly-crisis of sky-high costs, talent shortages and general stagnation.

This data highlights the state of play for managers at UK businesses. What’s holding back more effective management? How is management affecting productivity, innovation and employee engagement? And could more and better training be the answer to UK plc’s management problem?

The CMI found that an astounding 82% of managers in the UK are so-called ‘accidental managers’. These are individuals who were not necessarily suited to a managerial role, but were instead put in a management position because they were good at their (non-managerial) job, they were well liked, or they just happened to be available to take charge.

Given that the vast majority of UK managers are selected based on the wrong criteria, it is even more concerning that so many are not trained properly after taking the role. More than half of UK managers have no formal management qualifications, while a third have no management training at all.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that nearly one in five managers doesn’t feel confident in their leadership abilities. Another three in five report feeling confident, but recognise that they could benefit from some more training and development.

The most surprising is the remaining one in five. These managers feel that they don’t need any further development at all.

But managers with formal training do actually perform better on key leadership metrics according to the CMI. Leading change initiatives, soliciting feedback, driving sustainable delivery and implementing emerging technology are areas with some of the most significant performance gaps between those with formal training and those without.

So, most managers in the UK are merely ‘accidental’ and more than half are not benefitting from management training. But how does this impact a manger’s ability to lead, organise and inspire their team? And how do UK managers fare in the eyes of employees?

While more than three in five UK workers (64%) consider their manager to be ‘highly’ or ‘somewhat’ effective, that leaves just over a third (36%) who are either neutral about their manager’s effectiveness or believe their manager to be positively ineffective.

And as it turns out, quality management has a big impact on both employee satisfaction and engagement.

While nearly three-quarters (74%) of employees with effective managers felt satisfied with their current job, that share drops to 27% for workers experiencing ineffective management.

Similarly, 77% of workers with effective managers said they felt motivated to do a good job, but only 34% of those with ineffective managers felt the same way.