How much is poor management costing your business? According to research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), it could be quite a lot. A survey published today suggests bad management is costing UK businesses more than £19 billion in lost working hours every year. Results show that employees waste almost two hours of their working time every week because of their manager’s inefficiency. Poor communication, lack of support and micro-management are identified as the key culprits, together with a general lack of direction.

Now the CMI puts the problem down to a general lack of management development. Only one in five UK managers holds a professional qualification and when budgets are under pressure, training is often the first to go.

But I’m not sure that’s entirely the full picture. If managers are not doing their job properly, why aren’t those at the helm of the business noticing? More to the point, why isn’t the issue being tackled as part of the ongoing performance management process?

There are two issues at play here. The first is that many managers – even those at very senior level – have a tendency to shy away from ‘difficult’ conversations about performance. They may well be aware that a team or department head is not doing their job properly – but they don’t have the skills to deal with the issue head-on in an assertive but non-confrontational manner.

The second issue is that although the vast majority of businesses have a performance management system in place, it is often not being used that effectively. Appraisals get pushed to the bottom of the pile and managers treat them as a box-ticking exercise rather than an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation.

Bits of paper documenting decisions about objectives and development needs get shoved in the back of a drawer and either never emerge – or are pulled out and dusted off a year later only to find that nothing has been actioned and as a result nothing has changed.

Of course automating the admin behind the performance management process can do much to help everyone keep track of what’s been discussed and agreed. But what’s needed above and beyond that is a change in management mindsets.

When times are tough, and they certainly are right now, the contribution of every employee counts. Proper performance management isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ it’s a ‘must-have’ – and the lead has to come from the top.

Directors need to look closely at the level of management competency in the business and find cost-effective and creative ways of plugging any skills gaps. Managers at all levels need to take a more pro-active approach to monitoring the performance of their team and giving staff the support they need to fulfil their potential.

So how much importance does your business place on improving performance management? Are the skills of your managers up to scratch – and if not, what plans do you have in place to tackle the issue? We look forward to hearing your views.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.