If we approached the training of doctors and airline pilots in the same way we do for training managers in the public (and much of the private) sectors, a fair proportion of the population would be dead by now. Most professions find it inconceivable that their members would be allowed to practice their craft for months or even years on the strength of a ‘good interview’ and perhaps a training course if they run into any difficulties.
However for most people in the health and social care sectors, the management role, particularly the management of people, creeps up on them as they rise through their professional ranks. Indeed some clinical and social care professions have the acquisition of staff to manage as one of the criteria that help to differentiate pay grades. The overwhelming majority of middle to senior managers on my training programmes report that they have either never had any formal people management skills training or the opportunity to pick up vital skills via a local seminar or workshop comes months or even years after they take up their posts. This situation is unfair to both parties. For the managers the apprehension of taking on responsibility for the work and welfare of others is magnified by feelings of ‘making it up as I go along’. For the staff affected, their work contribution is considered of such low importance that it can be easily controlled by an unqualified and unconfident person. Just what they need to help them feel valued!
If you are looking for reasons why the management profession, particularly public sector management, is held in such low esteem (even by other public sector professionals), the absence or paucity of prior training and preparation should be high on the list.
When you consider that the cost of someone leaving an organisation (dealing with their departure, covering the work pro tem, advertising and interviewing, induction of the new person etc) is estimated at 20% of the annual salary for that post, you can see how organisations that under invest in preparing managers for their roles are actually hurting their own bottom line. When you next read a CEO’s or Chairman’s annual report which states that ‘our people are our most valuable asset’, go and ask their staff whether they feel valued and well managed by their immediate management regime. Oh, and by the way, wear a tin helmet!
Written by Andrew Scrowcroft, Visiting Senior Fellow