Business managers pessimistic on prospects for year ahead

Annual survey of managerial resolutions reveals first drop in optimism since 2010 Improving productivity a top-three priority, second only to cost control

28 December 2015

British managers have the gloomiest outlook for their organisations and the economy since 2012 according to the annual Future Forecast from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Just 60% of managers enter the New Year in an optimistic frame of mind, the lowest since 2012, and the first year-on-year fall in confidence since the forecast began in 2010. A third of those polled (37%) expect to see a reduction in headcount in 2016, on top of the 46% that reported redundancies in 2015.

Despite their pessimism, the majority of the polled 1,089 UK managers reported moderate financial growth in 2015, with just 24% experiencing a decline in performance. Looking ahead to the coming year, the top three priorities according to managers are cost control (75%), improving productivity (61%) and managing performance (60%). This chimes with findings from the OECD that show the UK lagging Italy, France and the US when it comes to productivity. 

The top five barriers holding back business productivity are found to be bureaucracy (30%), business culture (27%), outdated technology (22%), stress (21%) and bad management (18%). To tackle this, the top five New Year’s resolutions managers have for their organisations are: Improve management and leadership skills (31%); change the culture (25%); invest in technology (24%); invest in people and skills (24%); and reduce bureaucracy (24%).

Commenting on the findings CMI’s chief executive Ann Francke said:

The number-one factor affecting productivity is quality of management and leadership. Managers can’t work effectively with their hands tied behind their backs. We know that two in five managers don’t feel empowered to take necessary decisions; so it is little surprise that so many firms report they are bloated by bureaucracy. Employers must make it their New Year’s resolution to provide them with the skills and autonomy to succeed.”

According to the research, 29% of firms enter the New Year having undershot their business targets for 2015, with just 18% managing to exceed expectations. When asked about morale within their organisations, 59% of public sector firms were pessimistic compared with 32% in the charity sector and 26% in the private sector. Across the sectors, a rise in seniority is associated with a rise in optimism, with junior managers most likely to feel under pressure and pessimistic (31%) in contrast to (11%) of directors.

Recruitment of the right staff for their teams was seen by managers as a top priority for the year ahead, with 58% believing this to be very important. Improving engagement (47%) and upskilling current employees (46%) were deemed to be similarly important. Flexible working in contrast was seen to be far less of a priority with 40% feeling it was not crucial. Interestingly managers rated the productivity of their own teams significantly higher than that of their organisation, more than twice as many felt their teams were highly productive (30% to 14%).

Focusing on developing existing talent should be a priority for employers, with one in 10 managers intending to seek new employment unless their situation improves. The top individual resolution for managers was to make better use of their skills. For the three-quarters (74%) of firms already struggling to secure people with the right management and leadership skills, professionalising their management workforce should be a priority. Currently, 71% of firms fail to provide any form of training to first-time managers, although encouragingly the report finds 41% of firms intend to increase or significantly increase their investment in management and leadership training.

Francke concludes:

Never mind sleep-pods or virtual reality in the office, what managers really want for the New Year is for their employers to cut paperwork, improve workplace culture and replace outdated technology. As we all limp back to the office after Christmas festivities it is all too easy to fall back into bad habits. Managers and leaders must have the resolve to see necessary changes through if we’re all to prosper into 2016 and beyond.”

The top five individual resolutions for managers are:

  1. I want to make more use of my talents (27%)
  2. I want to learn more (13%)
  3. I want to find a new job (11%)
  4. I want to switch off from work completely at the end of the day (9%)
  5. I want increased pay and responsibilities (9%)

CMI Future Forecast is available for download from or get involved with the discussion: @cmi_managers #FutureForecast



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Notes to editors


About CMI


  • The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is the only chartered professional body for management and leadership,

dedicated to improving managers’ skills and growing the number of qualified managers.


  • Our professional management qualifications span GCSE to PhD equivalent levels, including the unique Chartered Manager award, which increases earnings potential and improves workplace performance.
  • We provide employers and individual managers with access to the latest management thinking and with practical online support which helps them embrace change, create high performing teams and keep ahead of the curve.


  • With a member community of 120,000+ managers and leaders, we promote high standards of ethical practice through our Professional Code of Conduct, and help managers build their expertise through online networks, regional events and mentoring opportunities.




[1] OECD Total Factor Productivity 2015

[2] Management 2020 – Report from the commission on the future of management and leadership July 2014