Chartered Management Institute: In my opinion

Chartered Management Institute CEO Mary Chapman argues that, 40 years on, the challenge to increase management professionalism remains a priority.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In 1966, prime minister Harold Wilson spoke at a conference organised by the Institute (then called the British Institute of Management), in the same month that the Labour Party won a second term. Wilson told managers: 'There has been a certain amount of suspicion, even ridicule, about the basis of management being professional, but I have said a number of times that we cannot in this highly competitive world afford to treat this vital profession of management as something that should depend purely on birth, family background, school connections or anything else that goes with the former amateur status. We cannot in British industry afford to keep the professionals out.'

As MT looks back in this issue at the past four decades, it's an opportunity to reflect on how management has changed. The profession that was emerging in the '60s has become a dominant force in the economy, with more than 4.5 million people in management roles. The first business schools established in London and Manchester in that decade have been joined by more than a hundred others, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in what is now the most popular university subject. The successor to the BIM has been recognised as the champion of professional management through the grant of its Royal Charter. The workplace has been transformed by new technologies, by the challenges of global markets and by a society with quite different expectations of work.

In the world of work I joined in 1970, management practice was strongly influenced by scientific management theories developed in an industrial context. Leadership derived from military command-and-control models. Concern for the employee as an individual was not a priority for most organisations. Learning and development were highly dependent on the individual preferences of line managers.

Institute research shows that the current generation of young managers have great expec- tations of those they report to and are striking new psychological contracts with their employers. They place high importance on achieving a balance between work and their personal lives; they are more assertive about their rights; many feel disillusioned with large organisations and, for preference, seek out employers whose corporate values reflect their own personal values.

Although automatic deference to authority has diminished, young managers expect a lot from their leaders in terms of inspiration and coaching.

Perhaps it is inevitable that, in the age of the consumer, employees see themselves as stakeholders in the organisation and are consequently more demanding. As 'assets' on the human capital management balance sheet, they know their worth and want to be recognised for the value they bring.

Increasingly, managers want to negotiate their own employment deals or at least be able to choose from a flexible menu of benefits. The challenge for businesses is to develop an attractive employer brand that will enable them to compete for talent. What a difference four decades makes. Once it was 'the management' and 'the unions' and any bargaining that was done was strictly collective.

It's perhaps unsurprising that, as a woman manager, my experience has been that I was invariably the first or only woman on the team. In the early '70s, when the Institute launched its annual management salary survey, less than 2% of the management population was female. Today, it's 33% and rising - having trebled over the past 10 years. The proportion at the most senior levels is still too small but there are encouraging signs that business recognises the value of greater diversity throughout the workforce.

On the skills front too, much has changed. In addition to the science of management, we have seen a flourishing of the art of management - the so-called softer skills. Empathy, emotional intelligence, coaching and communication are now an essential part of the skills mix for those who lead teams. These skill sets are being integrated into business school programmes. Managers today are required to be accomplished across a wide range of both technical and interpersonal skills. Great strides have been taken. Yet, now as then, the government of the day calls for greater quality of performance by management. This emphasises the increasing competitive challenges we face to be innovative and productive. Ministry names may have changed over the years but the Institute has continued to lobby government on behalf of management.

Earlier this year, it submitted key policy recommendations for raising management skills by 2020 to the Treasury-backed Leitch Review of Skills.

Forty years on from Wilson's statement, still only 20% of managers have a management-related qualification. The Institute is calling for government to set new targets to ensure that by the end of the second decade of the 21st century, at least 50% of managers will be qualified in a management discipline. It has also put forward its Chartered Manager scheme as the benchmark against which employers and government measure management capability.

- CV Mary Chapman joined the Chartered Management Institute as chief executive in 1998. Previously, she was CEO of Investors in People UK. She spent 12 years with L'Oreal Group, holding the posts of MD of Helena Rubinstein and then director of personnel operations and management development for the group.

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