SMEs suffer managerial skill shortage

A lack of people skills is hampering managers of Britain's small and medium-sized companies.

Nine out of ten UK businesses believe they are at risk of being held back by a shortage of skilled managers, finds research.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of senior employers identify a lack of internal staff capability as the single biggest barrier to ensuring an effective supply of leaders and managers through their organisation, according to a 750-strong survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Organisations are failing to capitalise on internal talent, with only 55 per cent of managerial vacancies filled internally.

At senior level, just half (50 per cent) of companies recruit from their internal talent pool.

Meanwhile, less than one in five (18 per cent) employers expect candidates to have received management training prior to being appointed to a management position.

The findings also reveal a shortage of ‘softer’ leadership and management skills as a particular challenge facing UK employers, with organisations consistently struggling to find managers – at every level – who are emotionally intelligent, inspirational and creative.

While first line managers perform particularly well on technical and functional skills (which the survey identifies as the main factor determining their appointment), almost half (49 per cent) of respondents say it is hard to find first line managers who are entrepreneurial and 39 per cent admit it is hard to find ‘emotionally intelligent’ managers at this level.

Charles Elvin, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership and Management says, ‘The clear link between management and leadership capability and productivity means that organisations should be fully focused on developing managers not just for their current role, but for the future goal of their organisation.

‘The UK needs to address the current shortage of management and leadership skills revealed in this survey in order to compete on the international stage.’

Elvin adds that now, more than ever, businesses should be investing in leadership and management development at all levels to ensure strong business performance and effectiveness.

‘They need to consider the personal qualities of managers as well as their technical skills, helping them become more innovative, inspirational and emotionally intelligent in order to prepare them for the demands of 21st century leadership.’

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of and from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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