CBI: Senior leaders must take responsibility for supporting line managers

CBI director for employment and skills Neil Carberry is urging senior leaders to think and act for progressively in how they expect line managers to perform.

Speaking at the launch of the Britain at Work report, Carberry addressed one key result of a significant disconnect between how good managers believed they were at their job and the thoughts of those they managed.

He noted this result and many others were interconnected, especially those involving management standards and employee mental health.

But, Carberry said that if managers were expected to work in different ways they needed to be supported and measured in those ways.

“We can’t land it all on managers,” he said.

“As business leaders it’s all very well to say you want managers to be a certain way, but if you measure managers in the way you’ve always measured them they’ll do what you’ve always wanted them to do. So it’s about leadership walking the walk as well as talking the talk.”

Carberry added that the inter-connected nature of such results was essential and that employers needed to address people’s experiences in work, focusing on improving employee relations and communication.

“It’s about people coming into your workplaces with differing goals and objectives,” he said.

“And actually the theory that’s been espoused for 20 years – as long as you get the vision right and just beat them repeatedly over the head with it and have some sort of focused organisation around that, then things will get better – is clearly not the case.

“So that’s why the listening, discussion and whole employee voice is really important. But so is that we as an organisation look at how we deliver what we’re trying to do,” he added.

Leaner teams

His thoughts were echoed by Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development president Professor Sir Cary Cooper.

He suggested the recession had made a greater impact on businesses than was often accounted for and managers were the ones having to deal with many of the problems.

“We’ve realised we have fewer people, they are doing more work, they are feeling more job insecure and they’re working longer hours. So we need socially interpersonally skilled managers,” Sir Cary said.

“Before the recession we didn’t need them as much – we were fatter, we’re leaner now.

I think that’s partly responsible for why we have 25% of people saying they’ve had stress related illnesses.

“We need the kind of managers who can manage people properly and the presenteeism issue, of people turning up to work when they’re ill or job dissatisfied and not providing any added value, in my view is partly responsible for our productivity problem,” he added.

Sir Cary also argued that potentially another 25% of the UK workforce were stressed but had not taken absence due to fears of job insecurity.

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