The Manager's Manifesto: Tax Breaks for Training

Last Updated Apr 6, 2010 12:08 PM EDT


Now that election day's official, BNET UK will take a closer look at how the leadership race -- and a possible change of government -- will impact individuals at work.

First off, managers: BNET UK asked Petra Wilton, (pictured) director of policy and research at the Chartered Management Institute, what most managers want from government and how they can get it.

BNET UK: First off, what's the most pressing need for managers in business?
PW: Skills. The most recent National Strategic Skills Audit estimated that we'd need 2.2 million new managers by 2017. Whatever the results of the upcoming election, the UK's managers and leaders will need to raise their game if the UK's knowledge economy is to stand a chance.

As we move into higher-value industries, we need higher-level management and leadership skills. Almost every manager needs to deliver efficiencies now, and to do that properly, they need to devolve responsibility. Everyone needs to have a bit of managerial ability -- so you might have a specialism, like nursing, but general management skills, too.

BNET UK: Where does government come in?
PW: Employers who invest in continuous development of managers and leaders need tax breaks rather than incentives. Government will need to create a standard or guidelines, but it's better to give employers tax breaks than try to stimulate skills upgrades through initiatives. It allows the employer to invest in people when it's right for them.

BNET UK: What about up-and-coming leaders?
PW: We want government to pledge to help younger people and graduates improve their 'employability' and develop nascent leadership traits.

There are already initiatives out there -- the Duke of Edinburgh programme, Young Enterprise, certificates in leadership -- so it's more about standardising language and qualifications so that every employer understands them.

Linked to this is work experience: we need to get better at sharing best practice. But this isn't so much the government's responsibility. It's up to businesses to define how success is measured and what 'good' looks like. Then it's about making that more transparent to others.

BNET UK: How does this apply to the public sector, which is under pressure to cut costs in the next few years?
PW: Whoever leads the UK must show a commitment to professionalising public sector leadership. Employers look for chartered status among professionals, so why not among managers and directors? After all, almost one-third of managers and leaders are employed in public sector organisations. And while some specialist skills will differ from, say, healthcare to the police force, there are some common abilities that apply across the board.

Public sector organisations also need to stop working in silos and share more across divisions.

BNET UK: Should government enforce better sharing and reporting?
PW: The ultimate way of sharing best practice, I suppose, is through reporting, but this should be encouraged on a voluntary basis rather than enforced. Employers will naturally push against anything that feels prescriptive or like red tape. But our surveys of managers prove they are genuinely looking for ways of accommodating flexible working and encouraging diversity at work.

Investors are increasingly looking at a company's leadership for an indication of future performance. Laurie McBassi, a leading US-based academic and investor, measures management performance in this way, while French investment house Oddo includes human capital metrics as part of its research.

Got more manifesto points for managers? Share your take below.