Management development as a strategic imperative HR Management

Major environmental shifts are now demanding a more strategic perspective from those who manage and lead in organisations. Many organisations are now ‘globalising’ in their quest for markets that will bring them new opportunities for growth and prosperity. Advances in technology, especially in the field of information technology and telecommunications, are leading to greater efficiencies, reduced costs and opportunities to launch new products and services. The nature of organisational life itself is changing.

Organisations are becoming more complex and diverse. Change and its impact is now the dominant feature of organisational life. Employee adaptability and flexibility are the essential characteristics for organisational survival and success. As a consequence, organisations are now espousing values that regard people not as costs to be minimized but as assets to be maintained and developed.

Such changes are setting new challenges for managers and employees alike. Managers are being challenged to respond as strategic leader and perform in the role of change agent (Salaman, 1995; Rosenfeld and Wilson, 1999). Their task is to establish a clear mission, linked to a set of strategic business objectives that enable organisations to acquire, control and allocate resources to maximise the opportunities available and to minimise any threats to their survival and success.

But managers need the knowledge and skills to do this and in this sense, management development has now become a strategic imperative within many organisations (Woodall and Winstanley, 1998; Thomson et al., 2001). An illustration of how management development is being integrated with and used to support business strategy can be found in the major international company Unilever.

  • Devising a management development policy

Policy statements are useful because they express an organisation’s commitment to development, and set out clearly a framewor within which it can take place. It makes it explicit who is responsible for development, the support that is available, methods used etc. Research has also suggested that those organisations having a formal policy for developing their managers ‘undertook significantly more management training than did companies without such a policy’ (Thomson et al., 2001).

However, what is sometimes less clear is the extent to which organisations are committed to and prepared to implement their policies. Policies may be viewed with some scepticism – especially during times of radical downsizing involving the loss of managerial jobs (Thomson et al., 2001). There are also difficulties evaluating the effectiveness of policies in achieving desired outcomes. The difficulties associated with evaluating management development outcomes will be explored later in the chapter.

  • Extracts from a management development policy

Management development will fail if there is no clear policy. (Margerison, 1991)

  • We accept that it is the Group’s responsibility to provide every manager with the opportunity to develop his/her ability and potential so that he/she does their existing job effectively.
  • We believe that people derive more satisfaction from working when they themselves have helped to establish and are committed to the objective of their job.
  • The policy requires that through the Divisions we create an environment in which all managers contribute to the objectives of the business to their maximum ability.
  • We have undertaken to support this policy by providing an organisational structure within which the responsibilities of each manager are clearly defined.
  • We expect that increasing the influence and scope for initiative and self-motivation of managers and their subordinates will lead to increasing job satisfaction and to direct improvement in the Group’s commercial performance.

Having determined its policy guidelines, the next step for the organisation is to consider how it should approach the development of its managers.

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