Westminster missing the mark with managers

CMI-sqPolitical promises don’t match bosses business priorities, suggests research

Managers looking ahead to 2015’s election will be left disappointed that proposed policies do not match their own business priorities. A new report from the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) has found that despite Westminster’s preoccupation with immigration only 4% of managers say limiting the movement of labour across the EU is a priority for them. Rather, managers’ top political priority is providing work experience for every young person, which had a net support level of 79%.

The annual Future Forecast survey of 1,253 managers across the UK found that many key pledges from the leading political parties simply did not chime with the priorities of managers. Politicians are focusing on abolishing zero-hour contracts which only scored 43% net agreement with managers, whereas 59% supported an increase in the national minimum wage. Growth and people policies resonate far better with today’s bosses, including support for developing new, employer-led management apprenticeships (72%), which ranked third on managers’ policy wish-list. Closing tax loopholes appears to be the only area of major accord, where the latest policies are very much aligned to managers’ concerns for greater fairness in the tax system.

The report reveals that a focus on people and skills is uppermost in managers’ business priorities for 2015. ‘Developing people’ is a new addition to the top three management priorities for the year ahead, overtaking ‘increasing turnover’. It joins ‘controlling costs’ and ‘managing performance’, which made the top three of the Future Forecast survey last year too. Training and development is also one of the areas most likely to see increased employer spending in 2015, with 45% reporting that budgets are set to increase.

Managers’ personal resolutions for the New Year are also all about people. Not only are bosses pledging to support the development of their team’s skills (50%), they’re also keen to devote more time to their own professional development as leaders (53%).

Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, comments:

“It is clear that there is a mismatch between the Westminster village and UK managers. The big question is why, and what do politicians need to do to connect with this significant segment of the electorate? Our report shows that it’s all about improving productivity.  Employers want people-focused policies that will help them upskill and motivate their teams. Rather than election rhetoric we need to see a commitment to shifting business culture in this direction. We must move away from an obsession with short-term priorities and help organisations to be clearer about their purpose, to better support their people, and to invest to grow future potential.”

The survey’s tracking data shows that managers are slightly less upbeat than last year about the prospects for the economy as a whole: just over half (51%) are optimistic compared to 55% at the end of 2013. Yet, the data paints a picture of an economy that’s increasingly buoyant, with more organisations reporting growth in the last 12 months than in any of the last five years (46% say their organisation grew in 2014, compared to 41% last year).

As a result, managers are just as positive about their organisation’s prospects for the year ahead as they were 12 months ago, with 63% saying they’re optimistic. Private sector managers are the most optimistic: 73% see a rosy future ahead, compared to just under half (49%) of those in the public sector.

However, there are some specific areas of concern. Fewer managers are confident that their organisation has the right people for the year ahead than was the case last year (52% vs 55%), and increasing numbers report difficulty in recruiting the talent they need (72% vs. 66%).

Ann Francke adds:  “This report shows that developing the skills of the next generation is a must. Without it, recruitment difficulties will only worsen. But employers cannot simply pass the buck to Government.  There is a clear challenge for employers to back up their enthusiasm for work experience by actually offering placements and developing their staff.  Businesses will only grow through inspiring their people and making the most of their potential, and it is those who rise to this challenge who will prove the optimists right over the coming year.”

The report makes three key recommendations and calls on policy makers to help employers:
  • Prioritise people development and raise management standards.
  • Tap into the talent of the next generation and develop their potential.
  • Be more transparent about tax and management pay.

The full report can be found at www.managers.org.uk/futureforecast

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