Technically adept, but leaders lack people skills: CIPD

A new assessment by HR professionals suggests senior leaders can do more to boost workforce potential by developing their people management skills.

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The latest HR Outlook survey carried out by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, observes performance management and people management are the top leadership behaviours and skills organisations need over the next three years.However, 53 per cent of respondents said they believe senior leaders’ current performance management skills are ineffective. Similarly, 44 per cent of the HR professionals surveyed feel senior leaders’ people management skills are lacking.

Technical versus people skills

While the 629 HR professionals surveyed felt senior leaders’ people and performance management skills fall behind the level needed, they do have confidence in this group’s technical, financial and operational abilities.Nevertheless, only financial and budget management made it into HR practitioners’ top ten of the leadership qualities critical in the years to 2020.

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Training managers to support and develop people

As well as explaining the implications of these results, Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, expressed concern that leaders do not have all the skills needed to develop their teams effectively, or have access to training or support to improve the situation.A strong talent pipeline, which promotes both strong people management and technical excellence, will support people to reach their full potential at work and is essential for a sustainable and high-performing business.“Given that a business is its people, it’s very concerning that leaders are rated so poorly on their people management and development capabilities.“In order to lead people effectively, leaders need to have a variety of skills – but while technical skills are critical in organisations, they do not always go hand-in-hand with people skills.“Organisations need to respond to this mismatch by making targeted investment in their leadership’s people management capability."

Devolving people development from HR function

The CIPD also points out that in organisations where line managers have taken on new people management responsibilities devolved from the HR function (50% of respondents), less than half (44%) are given any formal training. Only three in five (60%) are given ongoing tailored support.“It’s good to see HR being able to devolve some people management to different parts of the business, as line managers are often best placed for dealing with the day-to-day responsibilities, such as managing absence,” Dr Miller continued. “However, it’s worrying that in many organisations there is an expectation that line managers will acquire people management skills through sheer virtue of being given that job title.“Even those with great potential as people managers will still require training to become the best they can be in the role. Under a great manager, a great team will flourish.”

For related news and features, see our human resources section.

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