Research digested: Building Better Managers, MindTools

A snapshot of useful research for L&D and workplace professionals.

Why read this report?

If you are interested in how to better support managers in your organisation, then this research report is for you. It reveals the biggest challenges facing managers and how to better support them.

About this research

In March 2024 MindTools in partnership with YouGov surveyed 2,001 managers across 12 industries in the U.K. For the sake of this research, managers are defined as mid-level with responsibility for one or more people, either within a single team or across multiple teams.

Standout Stats

There are a lot of insights here that can help learning and HR teams benchmark their own approaches and guide them to more effective management development.

The most profound is that 80% of managers say they became a manager because they were good at their job, not because they wanted to manage people. This echoes the sentiment of the Chartered Management Institute’s accidental managers research. We have to recognise that for the vast majority of managers becoming a manager is not a decision motivated by the desire to manage people.

Added to this, most managers and organisations have no idea what good management looks like. As the report says, “When we interviewed managers at the end of 2023, most had a hard time explaining what good management looked like, and many conversations ended with the startling realization – on both sides – that managers don’t know what they’re striving for.”

Things unravel from here, with half of managers surveyed saying had received no support from their organisation (regarding resources, formal courses or training) when transitioning into the role. Only 58% of those who did said that they were satisfied with the support they received. And for 64% of respondents, a lack of opportunities to learn would lead them to look for another job.

When asked what would they would need to make them a better manager, respondents said:

  1. I want to discover my strengths and weaknesses to identify areas of improvement
  2. I want to know what my organisation thinks I should be focusing on
  3. I want to acquire and enhance essential management skills

There were positive outcomes for managers that were provided with support when they transitioned to becoming a manager. They felt they had better capabilities vs those who did not receive any support:

  • Coaching (70% vs 56%)
  • Goal setting (63% vs 47%)
  • Guidance (68% vs 54%)

This matters when you consider the impact of poorly skilled managers. The report includes some research findings from 2022 research into employee perceptions of managers.

  • 69% do not share new learning opportunities with me
  • 66% are not involved in my professional development
  • 57% do not make decisions with me

The research also reveals the top challenges for managers in 2024:

  1. Having difficult conversations 21%
  2. Conflict management 16%
  3. Influencing others 14%
  4. Prioritising and delegating 13%
  5. Identifying skills for good management 10%
  6. Building team culture 9%
  7. Managing diversity 7%
  8. Responsibility for L&D 6%
  9. Building interpersonal relationships 5%

And if you want to help managers overcome these challenges be aware of their barriers to professional development, the number one barrier being too many competing priorities (50%), followed by lack of support from my manager or organisation (31%) and uninspiring learning content 19%).

Final Word

Use this report as a mirror to hold up against the organisation. And open discussions around the manager experience. Are the challenges highlighted in this research common to your organisation? If so, what can you do to improve the manager experience?

The report provides some answers. Fundamentally, organisations must look at the design of manager job roles. Until you can fix that, focus on some quicker wins including asking them what would make them a better manager. And then design for solutions that help them improve. S

Report reading time: 20 minutes

Format: PDF