Do your staff have the skills to be good line managers?
Research from CIPD, the professional body for human resources, indicates important challenges ahead around talent management and leadership development
Mary Connaughton: `When asked about the factors constraining HR from making a strategic contribution to their organisation, poor line management was identified as the primary culprit’
Do Irish senior managers really know how much the behaviour of line managers affects employee turnover, which is growing at an increasing rate. Do they recognise the need to develop a strong internal learning culture in their organisation, or do they simply pay lip service?
In a tightening labour market with skill gaps rapidly emerging, these are key questions to be addressed at Delivering on your People Agenda, a major conference taking place later this month.
Organised by the CIPD, the professional body for human resources and people development, the Croke Park, Dublin event will be headlined by David Ulrich, professor of business at the University of Michigan and HR Magazine’s “Most Influential Thinker”.
His insights should prove invaluable to the HR teams charged with delivering the agile workforces now required to drive business performance - not easily done in today’s job-hopping environment.
“One of the biggest challenges we are currently seeing is around resourcing and retention of employees,” says Mary Connaughton, director of CIPD Ireland.
HR Practices in Ireland 2018, CIPD’s annual survey, shows more than four out of five organisations in Ireland experienced skills shortages in the past year, a figure consistent with the previous year’s report.
The survey found the top priorities for organisations today are talent management, leadership development, managing performance and increasing flexibility.
Many line managers require additional development and support in order for organisations to deliver on their people management agenda
For HR departments the strategic priority is employee engagement, followed closely by recruitment and resourcing, both of which have risen in importance since last year’s survey. This reflects both the growing importance of talent management and rising concern over employee turnover levels.
“With 81 per cent of organisations suffering shortages, we can see clearly the extent of the skills gaps businesses are facing. The result is that we are also seeing more investment in learning and development, in building the skills and competencies required to close those gaps,” says Connaughton.
All respondents said their organisations were continuing to invest in their people, with 50 per cent reporting spending of between 3 per cent and 9 per cent of annual payroll cost on learning and development.
A majority (58 per cent) indicated they were either active or very active in providing career development opportunities for employees.
Worryingly however, when asked about the factors constraining HR from making a strategic contribution to their organisation, poor line management – that is, gaps in the necessary skills to be good people managers ‐ were identified as the primary culprit.
“This is of concern. Compared to the 2017 CIPD survey, line managers are now more prominent a constraint than any other factor. It is clear that many line managers require additional development and support in order for organisations to deliver on their people management agenda,” she says.
“There needs to be better understanding at leadership level of the time and skills line managers require to be better managers of people.”
More worrying is the fact that one quarter of HR respondents identified a lack of senior management commitment to learning and development within their organisation.
“There needs to be recognition of the very real cost of not doing this correctly, both in terms of employees leaving and in terms of employees not attaining optimum performance levels,” says Connaughton.
Having career development paths is an important part of what helps employees stay in an organisation
“Organisations are better at training than they were and more investment is going into learning and development. But at the same time, senior managers aren’t necessarily respecting it.
“Neither is it being sufficiently used for career planning for employees, despite the fact that having career development paths is an important part of what helps employees stay in an organisation.”
Poor ICT – a recessionary legacy – isn’t helping either. Last year’s CIPD survey found 60 per cent of HR personnel working off outdated and inflexible systems, with more than half (55 per cent) saying they lacked analysis and insight into workforce data as a result.
It’s a topic Greig Aitken, group head of people strategy and insight at RBS Group, will touch on in his conference presentation ‘How Data and Insight can drive employee engagement, leadership and talent effectiveness’.
“How often do we have the spread sheets we need to back up our arguments? We need that data in order to be more influential at senior level,” says Connaughton.
Using data and the employee insights it delivers to target interventions and improve performance is arguably more important than ever, given the growth of atypical work. “We don’t have as big a ‘gig’ economy as other countries do but HR is dealing with a range of sourcing models, including part-time and flexible working.”
Today’s HR department is also required to provide a workplace culture “that meets the varying needs of workers from 18 to 68,” she says.
It’s something Nigel McNeil, senior director at Willis Towers Watson, will touch on in a presentation entitled “Connecting the Employee Experience (EX) with the corporate vision and the customer experience”.
What the CIPD survey shows is just how many obstacles HR teams face when it comes to getting that employee experience just right. “It shows that the critical role of line managers in bringing HR policies to life is valued but not effectively delivered,” says Connaughton.
The labour market challenges of skills shortage, talent mobility and engagement are intensifying
“And it shows organisations need to embed their people management role as part of their overall business strategy, and not just their HR strategy.”
Getting it right, and quickly, is vital, not least because the economy is growing apace. “The labour market challenges of skills shortage, talent mobility and engagement are intensifying as the Irish economy continues to expand,” she says.
The 2018 CIPD annual conference, Delivering on your People Agenda, takes place at Croke Park on May 22nd. For more, see CIPD.ie.