In 1994 it was predicted that South Africa would need 235 000 managers by 2000 – but that was at a growth rate of one to two percent, with the present economic growth of four to six percent the economy has failed to grow good managers fast enough.
It’s a global challenge so serious it is an issue in France’s May elections. It has seen the rapid development of training organisations worldwide with international headhunters hard at work.
Nic Gildenhuys of top training organisation, AstroTech says that in South Africa, “Rapid economic growth coupled with a serious loss of skills has seen many people appointed to management positions who lack sufficient understanding of business. It’s a major cost to the economy, in some sectors the salary bill is 80% of the budget with only 20% for operating costs.” He says poor management skills often see desperate organisations top heavy with management, as they appoint managers or contractors to help under-performing managers.
“Some understand management technologies, but technology is just a tool, you have to understand the business. For example, when we teach balanced score cards, participants start with strategy and break it down to objectives, they need to understand cause and effect, and how to increase turnover.
“Let’s take something simple: if I want to make more money I have to give my employer better service, to improve my work I have to study more.” Gildenhuys who has been a business coach for 15 years says increasingly he sees managers battling to cope, or insecure managers sabotaging those who improve their skills.
Gildenhuys recommends that executives “who see that managers cannot cope should have a proper performance management system in place and based on their performance make them aware that they can’t do the work and must take action to improve performance or redeploy them.
“Inept managers create problems, because they are fearful and don’t know what they are doing and so their management style becomes autocratic. They say, ‘do it my way because I am the boss’. The staff they send on courses go back and say the lecturer said we should do this and the insecure manager interprets this as: ‘now this person thinks he or she knows more than I do,’ and so they resist the new skills the course attendee comes back with. They also won’t appoint people they fear may have better skills than them, which ensures that inefficiency is ingrained into the economy.”
Some of the stresses on managers and skills loss is echoed in other countries of the world.
In France as an example, 2,2m citizens work abroad. The loss of these skilled French citizens is having a negative impact on France’s economy and is a key issue in upcoming elections. Those skilled workers and professionals who leave France, echo complaints often heard in South Africa, Time magazine reported: “the description these new émigrés give of the France they are leaving behind: a country where it’s difficult and sometimes miserable to be ambitious, where landing a stimulating job often depends on connections rather than talent, where bureaucracy is daunting and discrimination sometimes overt.”
The dearth of effective managers in South Africa is also seeing key professionals forced into management, depleting an already stressed skills base. “A lot of technical people, like engineers are being forced into management which is not their passion,” Gildenhuys notes. So many are being moved into management that AstroTech CEO Liza van Wyk introduced a course this year, Technical Person to Manager, to help such managers adjust to their new role.
Gildenhuys says the challenges are seen across the economy, “the lack of service delivery in some sectors is due to basic things like too little experience in project management, and a lack of a basic understanding of return on investments.”
He says AstroTech helps managers and executives cope through in-depth training and hands on work. “Nowdays too, course attendees want trainers who can speak from experience and bring real-life examples to the table.”
Business and the public sector are working hard to meet these challenges. AstroTech trebled its staff complement over the last year to cope with the demand for courses and this year added more than a dozen new courses to its swelling list. Gildenhuys says, “I have just trained the Business Analysis course and it was so oversubscribed we have people queuing for the next course. Project management is another top course. We find people keen to learn.” Every challenge is an opportunity waiting to be born.