Are you a supportive manager? You should be…

Wednesday 19 May 2021
Research finds that the people most affected by the pandemic – young and low-skilled workers – are most in need of support
Colleagues high-fiving

On 14 May, the online retailer Amazon announced that it would be hiring 10,000 more people in the UK. In some sectors – automotive is a case in point – job postings are almost back up to 2019 levels.

This is good news for sure, but another issue is emerging that could threaten the success of these new jobs. It’s this: unless the young people and people with low skills are onboarded and supported properly as they enter the workforce, they won’t thrive in their role. (For the purposes of this research we have defined low-skilled workers as those with qualifications below level 3 – equivalent to GCSEs or an intermediate apprenticeship.) As a result, they, their employer and indeed the whole recovery process will suffer.

Which brings us to the role of managers. 

A new report from CMI and the Learning and Work Institute (L&WI), Building Strong Foundations, throws up some fascinating new data about the key role that managers play in helping new employees to thrive and remain in the workplace.

Here are some of the key insights from the Building Strong Foundations report:

  • Low-skilled workers and young people have been particularly hard hit in the pandemic, in part because they often work in sectors such as hospitality that have been affected by lockdown and social distancing measures. Young people account for 57% of the fall in employment despite accounting for just 12% of total employment.
  • It’s hard to overstate how important managers are in supporting people into jobs. Check out these numbers: 91% of low-skilled employees say it’s important to have a supportive manager when taking up a new role; 92% say it’s important to have a manager who gives you feedback on your performance; 85% say it’s important to have a manager who helps you develop workplace networks.
  • Managerial pastoral support has become more important than ever. There is huge volatility in the workforce; many low-skilled and younger workers will be changing jobs. Three-quarters (75%) of managers say that  their role in onboarding low-skilled workers has become even more important over the past 12 months, because of the additional support needed: low-skilled workers are likely to face challenges with acquiring skills, managing work-life balance and wellbeing. At the same time, they can struggle to connect with their manager and colleagues.
  • But it’s been harder than ever to offer that support. The CMI/L&WI research finds that low-skilled workers with no experience most need support with improving productivity and quality of work. But it’s been incredibly difficult to support new recruits to adjust to new ways of working, say 60% of managers. This is compounded by many people working from home.

The key thing is feedback

The importance of giving good, consistent feedback is loud and clear throughout the Building Strong Foundations report. Some 92% of low-skilled workers say that when changing roles it’s important to have a manager who gives feedback on performance.

While many good managers will do this, only 71% say that they prioritise giving feedback to people who’ve changed roles. One Yorkshire-based manager in the telecoms sector said: “we give feedback no matter what, because they’re [young people and low-skilled workers] being listened to. We’re making efforts to do what they require or answer their queries.” The manager goes on: “every day I will do walkaround myself, and I’ll just try and connect with people on a personal level.”


Giving constructive feedback should be part of a good manager’s core competencies. We recommend taking a close look at CMI’s Professional Standards to understand better how to improve. Outlined here, for example, are some of the skills required to manage your team’s performance, a prominent aspect of which is giving feedback.

Here’s a great CMI Insights story on giving constructive feedback, and here’s another about making feedback count

CMI and LWI are calling on the government to build the role of managers into employment and skills policy. To find out more and add your support, visit CMI’s media centre.  


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