Middle managers find it tough to deliver corporate training vision

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Middle managers are struggling to deliver their chief executives’ vision on learning and development, according to a new report.

In a survey commissioned by Sheffield Business School at Sheffield Hallam University, almost two thirds of companies (62 per cent) said they were either aspiring to be a “best company to work for” or have achieved this already.

Yet more than half of businesses (59 per cent) said the amount of training, other than that required by regulation, should be more.

Lynda Hinxman, assistant dean at Sheffield Hallam University business school, said: “From our discussions with business leaders we have identified three key issues.

“Corporates have had to become such lean operations in the recession that there is little time or money to train. Middle managers do not always recognise their critical role in developing the 
next generation of leaders – and many do not have the skills to do this.

“And corporates are spending too much on training, particularly for regulatory purposes, that is not linked to delivering strategic business goals. That is an issue for everyone in this sector, including universities.”

The survey of 153 corporate leaders included questions specifically for leaders of the largest corporates.

In this smaller sample, nearly half (47 per cent) said their chief executives had a passion for learning and development and were personally committed to its importance.

A further 47 per cent of those questioned admitted that while their chief executives believe in the importance of learning, it is not a key priority.

When asked if middle managers have the skills to develop future leaders, 47 per cent said not, against 40 per cent who thought they did.

And nearly all (93 per cent) said that middle managers are critical to the development of future leaders within their businesses.

The barriers to doing more training are budget (69 per cent), allowing time off to do training (44 per cent) and cover for jobs while being trained (40 per cent).

Only 38 per cent said they were doing enough training to achieve their corporate vision.

Ms Hinxman added: “Learning and development is no longer a ‘nice to have’ in corporates, but middle managers are facing major challenges to deliver this learning aspiration.

“Our own priority is to ensure training and development delivers business performance – but we have further to go.

“We have developed two new tools which will address some of the issues highlighted in this report – a process for talent identification and tools to develop the emotional intelligence of leaders – as well as more work-based learning.

“Clearly this is an area we all need to prioritise.”