UK firms face management 'black hole'

2004

Short-sighted ‘downsizing’ and careless organisational restructuring is creating a ‘black hole’ in management knowledge and skills within UK businesses, according to a new poll.

A survey of 234 HR professionals from HR Gateway suggests that the majority of HR professionals in the UK are ‘very worried’ that their organisations are creating ‘black holes’ as organisational memory is lost and training fails to keep up the pace with change.

The trend threatens to leave firms with similar problems to those encountered back in the early 1990s when the last great removal of talent occurred.

When asked to rate on a sliding scale of A-D how worried they were that organisational change was creating such problems in their organisation, half (49 per cent) voted A or ‘very worried’ followed by 22.5 per cent voting for B.

Only 13.5 per cent voted for D, or ‘not worried at all’, while 15 per cent voted C.

Petra Cook, head of policy at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) says that the findings are ‘troubling’ and a situation she blamed on management training failing to keep pace with change:

“Training is running to catch up but falling further behind. Greater responsibility is being shifted to the front line and the skill sets needed are changing. Firms need to realise this or they will lose quality managers.

“The Government’s Skills Strategy may help but what is needed is more support for managers from the top table or organisations will find it increasingly difficult to function,” she said.

For Mark Crail, managing editor of research publication IRS Employment Review, the problem stems from one of loss of organisational memory or knowledge rather than skills.

Training is doubtless a big issue for organisations over the coming months, he says, but it does not make up for loss of organisational memory. It is more important than ever for firms to question their identity," he said:

"Many managers of all levels have been removed from firms and with them has gone company history. These organisations are left with a discontinuity between past and present which causes problems when looking to move forward.

"The hard problems such as right-sizing, redundancy and cost reduction have been dealt with," he added. "It is now up to firms to deal with the soft issues. They need to take stock and reconstruct their identity so that they know where they want to go."