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The hidden cost of accidental managers - and why you can't afford to ignore it

Imagine 82% of your managers are struggling to lead effectively - this is the reality for many UK businesses today. Research released by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) at the end of last year highlighted that 82% of people in management roles have received no formal management or leadership training. As a result, managers are lacking the people skills to deliver effective feedback and lead their teams successfully. 

These leaders known as ‘accidental managers’ have been promoted based on their technical skills or time in role, rather than their leadership potential or abilities. What impact is this oversight having on team performance, employee turnover, and ultimately, the organisation’s bottom line?

The Concept of Accidental Managers

The majority of people don’t have an intrinsic skill at leadership. Rather, team leadership is something that befalls those that have either excelled in their previous roles, or have been in post for long enough to progress within the organisation. 

Despite being proficient in their previous day job, they may struggle with key management tasks such as communication, delegation and team motivation. This can lead to poor team morale, low productivity and high turnover rates within their team. Needless to say, this can have a big impact on the performance of the organisation as a whole. 

50% of workers that rate their manager as ineffective are planning to leave the organisation within the next 12 months

18% of managers say they aren’t confident in their own leadership abilities

33% of managers are likely to leave their job within the next 12 months

How can training help?

Traditional leadership training - perhaps attending a chalk-and-talk two day offsite, or an e-Learning module to work through - certainly ticks a box in terms of delivering some kind of training. But with tight budgets and the need to achieve something transformational, an immersive learning experience could deliver more bang for your buck. 

Experiential and social learning: Investing in experiential and social learning, such as game-based learning, can significantly enhance outcomes, allowing participants to learn in a few hours what might take years in the day job. They can effectively replicate the complexities and pressures of the workplace, while also providing a safe space to make mistakes, receive feedback, and refine their approach, to perform better as the game proceeds. 

Maximised learning input: Social learning experiences, such as our games, can be completed in as little as 4-8 hours. Working in teams, across business silos, allows participants to leverage the shared knowledge and experiences of the group, essentially multiplying the hours spent in learning. The format helps to mimic the workplace so skills are transferable, while building relationships within each cohort, which are further developed as they complete other stages of their leadership development journey.

Case study: Cultivating inclusive leadership with CoachHub

In 2022, we worked with CoachHub, the leading digital coaching platform, to support a global client who were looking to move beyond traditional training,to help people managers practice and enhance their inclusive leadership skills, while still having coaches on-hand to provide support. 

The full case study is available to read on our website, but below are the key outcomes of the pilot: 

  • 5% reduction in turnover from participant population (vs. non-participant control group).

  • 5% increase in promotion rates from participant population (vs. non-participant control group).

  • 5% increase in adoption of internal talent programs by the participant population (vs. non-participant control group).

How to address the issue of accidental managers

Accidental managers can have a significant impact on team morale, turnover rates and business performance. Richard Crawshay, Managing Director Americas, at ProfitAbility has the following advice to reduce the impact: 

  • Don’t assume greater latency in strong performers

  • Implement processes that identify people with the potential to be good leaders, rather than assuming that high performers in a technical role have the potential to lead teams

  • Invest time and resources into upskilling line managers. Treat it as a technical skill that needs to be developed. 

As identified by the CMI research, managers that have not received any training or support can have a significant impact on the business. To find out how game-based learning could help your business, get in touch with the team


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