Brexit means leadership, says Baroness Prosser

31 August 2017 -

BrexitPost-Brexit prosperity depends on great management, right across Britain

Baroness Prosser OBE

As the government sits down at the Brexit negotiating table, questions are brought into focus about our economy, productivity, education and skills that urgently need answering.

And there is one issue that underpins all of this – management and leadership.

The UK still lags behind its G7 competitors in productivity levels by some margin. If we are to finally close this gap, it’s imperative we address the quality of management and leadership in the UK – something we know to be one of the main causes.

We have too many ‘accidental managers’ – employees promoted into management jobs on the basis of excelling in their role and then left to sink or swim without the support they need to thrive. It’s vital that people have the right opportunities to learn.

To do this, the government needs to get serious about training. The need to focus on skills becomes ever more apparent as we prepare for a post-Brexit world of reliance on home-grown talent.

Where once organisations could rely on a vast pool of talent from abroad to plug skills gaps, the focus will now have to shift to developing our own.

The solution is twofold. It’s vital that the government does more to encourage employers to train and upskill their existing workforce; equally, the focus must also shift to how we can better prepare the next generation of managers and leaders.

We need almost two million new managers in the UK by  2024, so the solution can’t come from the existing workforce alone.

We need better engagement between employers and educators to do more for young people as they transition from education to work. The Apprenticeship Levy is an important step, with new higher and degree-level apprenticeships providing a vital role in improving productivity and developing our young people.

Working with employers, apprenticeships such as the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship are providing exciting new pathways into the professions, opening up new opportunities for young people beyond the traditional.

Read More: All you need to know about the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship

We also need a new way of measuring schools’ performance, beyond the focus on how many of their students go to university. It is important to look at how schools are helping young people to progress to a variety of destinations – higher education, apprenticeships or employment – to make sure they are given the best chance of choosing the best route for them.

In doing all of this, we will also help tackle the glaring lack of diversity present in so much of UK management. The government must make sure the management pipeline is as diverse and as rich in talent as possible.

Business is waking up to the need to improve ethnic diversity within this pipeline too, with the Parker and McGregor-Smith reviews putting a spotlight on business’s track record.

But there is work to do. CMI has recently partnered with the British Academy of Management on new research into race and ethnic diversity in the FTSE 100, exploring how they are building diversity in their management pipeline.

Work like this is vital if we are to make sure that, moving forwards, more organisations are looking seriously at their talent pipeline.

Whatever changes and obstacles present themselves in the months and years ahead, it is clear that we need highly qualified managers and leaders to overcome them and develop a competitive UK economy.

The time to start is now.

Baroness Prosser OBE is a Labour life peer. This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Professional Manager

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