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Nearly half of UK managers too overwhelmed to do their job, research finds


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Nearly half (47 per cent) of UK managers reported feeling “too overwhelmed” with their routine responsibilities in the last six months to perform their duties effectively, a study has found.

According to the survey of 525 senior business decision makers by Lattice and YouGov, a third of managers said they needed clearer policies and guidelines on recruitment, performance management, employee relations, and disciplinary procedures (33 per cent) to feel more confident in their management abilities.

This was followed by the requirement for training and development programmes for key management skills, which 22 per cent wanted to see, and strategic assistance for talent management (26 per cent).

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Kathleen McAdams, director of Albany HR, told People Management: “Being a good manager is a learned skill, it does not come naturally to many and it’s incumbent on organisations to enable managers to be great by training them in how to do the people management part of their role. Otherwise, they are setting them up to fail.”

Michelle Parry-Slater, director of Kairos Modern Learning, said feelings of being “overwhelmed” occur across the board and can have “dire consequences”. “It is something we need to address robustly,” she said.

She told People Management: “The squeezed middle managers continue to feel like they have little voice as they are both the implementers of strategies they didn’t create and delivery they rely on their teams to do.

“This is especially true for early career line leads, who have not always had the best leadership to learn from given the crisis management which has been taking place this decade.”

Parry-Slater suggested that one way HR can assist this cohort is to examine the workflow and better design work to alleviate pressure.

“A lot of work causes friction. Identifying those points of friction enables a conversation about the easement,” she explained.

Emma Christian, people consultant from employment law, HR and health and safety firm AfterAthena, said the results are “not surprising”. 

“The survey clearly highlights a critical issue where companies still find themselves promoting people because they are good at what they do without the missing ingredient, upskilling.

“This sentiment suggests a universal problem that requires leadership and HR to enable managers to focus on people management, rather than being bogged down by day-to-day duties,” she explained.

A further 31 per cent of managers disagreed with or were unsure about whether their company leaders had supported them to be more effective managers.

The top factor cited as having the biggest impact on their ability to be an effective manager was a lack of flexibility and managing their work-life balance (28 per cent). This was followed by 25 per cent citing communication and team collaboration challenges, and 23 per cent naming employee engagement.

Managers want more support 

The report also found that the majority (73 per cent) of respondents want guidance from HR and company leadership to help them perform better as a manager. The area most in demand (31 per cent) across all demographics was for more training and development on core management skills.

Stan Massueras, general manager, international at Lattice, said: “In a high-performance culture, managers are the glue between performance strategy and execution.

“With their primary role being not to make every employee perform, but to challenge direct reports to be the best version of themselves, they are a critical piece of the performance puzzle.”

He added: “But if organisations expect their managers to drive impact in their performance strategy, they need to get in their corner and they need to get the high-load tasks out of their managers’ way,” and that for people leaders, augmenting managers with AI will be the “biggest lever” to accelerate growth, innovation, and performance within their organisation.

Anthony Painter, director of policy at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) said: “Managers in the UK are feeling overwhelmed, unequipped and in need of support. When managers don’t have the support they need, they struggle to manage their teams efficiently, which, in turn, hampers productivity in organisations.”

He added: “Skilled managers not only drive performance, they also inspire loyalty in their teams and ensure their teams feel valued and appreciated. That is the transformative power of a qualified manager.”

For more information on how HR and line managers can work together, and for line manager support, visit the CIPD topic page here.

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