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The Government must recognise the role of managers in halting an unemployment crisis

New research from the Learning and Work Institute and Chartered Management Institute demonstrates that managers have been crucial when it comes to keeping the economy moving during COVID-19 | Credit: Adobe

Chartered Management Institute

5 min read Partner content

Managers are playing an essential role in keeping businesses afloat during the pandemic. It's now time for a long term vision which puts leadership and management skills at the core of the UK workforce.

  • Job losses during the pandemic could cost Government £4 billion
  • Good management is critical to the success of the Government’s job creation programme - costing £2.6 billion in 2021/22 alone - and in helping low-skilled and younger employees stay and thrive in the workplace
  • Learning and Work Institute and the Chartered Management Institute urge Government to embed management into employment and skills policy to ensure successful outcomes

A shift to remote working in the pandemic has made starting a new job even more challenging. Managers have a key role to play in helping new employees thrive and remain in the workplace, according to a new report, Building Strong Foundations, published today by leading research organisations Learning and Work Institute and Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is yet to be fully understood but the effect on employment and the labour market has already been profound. Vacancies have fallen, redundancies have risen, and hours worked have declined. Employment has fallen and unemployment is predicted to increase further and remain above pre-crisis levels until 2023/24.

Yesterday’s ONS Labour Force data demonstrated the continued pressure that low skilled workers and young people have experienced, in part because they are over-represented in sectors that have been most affected by lockdown and social distancing restrictions.

The cost of this damage can’t be overlooked: Job losses during the pandemic could cost the Government an estimated £4 billion over the course of a single year alone.

Policies such as the furlough scheme have played an important role in limiting the falls in employment and have the potential to speed up recovery from the pandemic.

But while we are seeing considerable investment in helping people change jobs or get back into work, much less attention is being paid to the support that they will need in the workplace to make a success of their new roles - and to the vital role that managers play in supporting new entrants and in helping existing employees develop their skills.

We have a unique opportunity to think beyond the short term need for employment and skills interventions, and to develop a longer term vision for a high skill, high wage, highly productive economy

Good management practices that support new starters will be essential to keeping new recruits in the workplace, and ensuring the Government sees a lasting return on this financial year’s considerable £2.6 billion employment strategy investment - a figure which over the lifetime of the support will grow substantially.

Low skilled workers face a range of challenges when changing roles, and are more likely than most new starters to have challenges connecting with their manager and colleagues. Young people find it difficult too, with specific challenges around developing skills, managing work-life balance and health and well-being.

Our research finds that 91% of low skilled employees agree it's important to have a supportive manager when taking up a new role.

But this support is not easy to provide. 60% of managers involved in onboarding low skilled workers since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 said they have found it harder to line manage these new recruits.

In seeking to Build Back Better, we have a unique opportunity to think beyond the short term need for employment and skills interventions, and to develop a longer term vision for a high skill, high wage, highly productive economy - and good work. To do this, CMI and the Learning and Work Institute are calling on the Government to:

  • Build the role of the manager into employment and skills policy. Consider mechanisms to incentivise a commitment to good management practice and development and progression for those engaged in government programmes such as via Kickstart, or Apprenticeships. For Kickstart this could mean requiring employers to declare their commitment to develop employees within the role and to demonstrate how they have made training and support available to them. For Apprenticeships this could mean establishing a commitment to the ongoing support, development and progression of apprentices. This would complement other government initiatives to support management and leadership development such as Help to Grow: Management.
  • Build core skills - management and leadership, digital, communication - into all skills interventions to ease the transition into employment and between employers. These are skills employers consistently report they want and need. The Department for Education’s (DfE) 2019 Employer Skills Survey found a lack of management and leadership skills reported by employers as a factor in three-fifths (57%) of skills gaps.
  • Partner with us to develop a UK-wide understanding of hybrid working and its consequences - especially for young people and the low skilled. For example, by investigating the effectiveness of different in-work support for retention and progression - what works, what delivers the best return on investment in employment support and up- and re-skilling?

The Government’s own Business Productivity Review states that businesses that embrace leadership and management best practice are more profitable, productive and better to work for. Programmes such as ‘Help to Grow:Management’ are an important step in the right direction but to make the UK’s ‘Plan for Growth’ a success in the post-pandemic landscape, we must go further and ensure high quality leadership and management training is part of a core and universal offer to a workforce that is undergoing fundamental and long-lasting change.

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