Don't sack the slackers, help drive skills growth

  28th November 2011      
 Company News

The government must address poor productivity by helping employers develop and nurture greater ‘skills for growth’, not scrapping unfair dismissal rights, says the CIPD.

A new Work Horizons report issued at the end of October by the CIPD calls for the Government to use its position and influence to encourage UK businesses to recognise and rectify gaps in management and leadership skills, ahead of the Growth Review this month.

The Work Horizons report, titled ‘Good Management — A New (Old) Driver for Growth’, shines light on the numerous ineffective policy reviews which have taken place in the past 20 years to address the UK’s lagging skills profile. It concludes that, despite the evidence that good management skills are a significant and important driver of growth and a series of commitments by the government to drive change in this area, improvements have been too slow. This means that the UK’s skills profile continues to lag behind.

CIPD’s Skills Policy Advisor Katerina Rüdiger is the author of the report. She says: “Headline grabbing proposals which call for making it easier to ‘sack the slackers’ are at risk of masking the real question we should be asking: why are so many UK workers still underperforming? The reason is not stringent employment legislation — indeed the UK has one of the most de-regulated labour markets across OECD countries — but a crisis of management and leadership skills. Firing underperforming workers does not address the root cause of this problem; the Government should instead focus on supporting employers to improve management capability. One third of the UK’s workforce has managerial responsibilities so it’s not difficult to see the potential for improved management and leadership capabilities to unlock productivity and address the problem of workplace performance in a way that works for everyone: employers, individuals and the UK economy.”

“I think we’re at a crossroads,” Rüdiger continues. “Policy efforts to date have skirted around the real issue and any policy initiatives in this area have been uncoordinated, short-lived and ineffective. What we need is a new approach, but the magic bullet policy makers have been searching for does not exist. What we should not do is to turn back the time and re-instate a workplace that is built on low trust and command and control. In fact we need to do the opposite and encourage employers to implement progressive workplace practices and help them to identify gaps in management and leadership skills. These are often too deeply rooted in organisational culture and at the most senior levels of an organisation, which means many employers do not recognise their potential short comings. For policy measures to resonate, therefore, they must help employers define what ‘good management’ looks like and encourage them to report on their investment in developing management capability.”

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