Headlines: May 14th, 2012

Levels of staff engagement are low across all organisations in the UK, but they are particularly low in the public sector.

Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has found that three quarters of employers report a lack of leadership and management skills and too many managers have an inflated opinion of their ability to manage people. In response, the CIPD is urging employers to recognise that just a small increase in capability amongst the UK’s eight million people managers would make a significant contribution to productivity.

The Institute’s survey includes a new index of employee engagement which shows that just 36 per cent of respondents are actively engaged at work, with engagement levels particularly low in the public sector.

According to the CIPD’s research, 72 per cent of employers report a deficit of leadership and management skills. However, the Institute’s quarterly Employee Outlook survey of 2,000 employees also suggests that one problem in tackling this skills deficit is that many managers don’t know how bad they are at managing people.

Eight out of ten managers say they think their staff are satisfied or very satisfied with them as a manager whereas just 6 out of 10 of employees report this is the case. This ‘reality gap’ matters as the survey finds a very clear link between employees who say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their manager and those that are engaged – i.e. willing to go the extra mile for their employer.

The gap between manager perception and reality as seen by employees is significant. Six in ten of managers claim they meet each person they manage at least twice a month to talk about their workload, meeting objectives and other work-related issues. However, only 4 out of 10 of employees say they meet their managers with such frequency. More than 90 per cent of managers say they sometimes or always coach the people they manage when they meet, while only 40 per cent of employees agree.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD said: “Too many managers fall into a vicious circle of poor management; they don’t spend enough time providing high quality feedback to the people they manage, or coaching and developing them or tapping into their ideas and creativity, which means they then have to spend more time dealing with stressed staff, absence or conflict and the associated disciplinary and grievance issues. Good managers value and prioritise the time with their staff because they realise that this is the only way to get the best out of them. Employers need to get better at identifying and addressing management skills deficits through low cost and no cost interventions such as coaching by other managers, mentoring, on-line learning, the use of management champions, peer to peer networks, toolkits, and self assessment questionnaires.”