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Changing Roles for Senior Managers P Kettley M Strebler IES Report 327 the Institute for Employment Studies
  • HR Response to Organisational Change 1

    Changing Roles forSenior Managers

    P KettleyM Strebler

    I E SReport 327

    the Institutefor Employment



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  • AReport 327

    Polly KettleyMarie Strebler




  • Published by:

    THE INSTITUTE FOR EMPLOYMENT STUDIESMantell BuildingUniversity of SussexBrighton BN1 9RFUK

    Tel. + 44 (0) 1273 686751Fax + 44 (0) 1273 690430

    Copyright 1997 The Institute for Employment Studies

    No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form by any means graphic, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, taping or informationstorage or retrieval systems without prior permission in writing from the Institute forEmployment Studies.

    The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily those ofthe Department for Education and Employment.

    British Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

    A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

    ISBN 1-85184-255-1

    Printed in Great Britain by Microgen UK Ltd

  • v

    The Institute for Employment Studies

    IES is an independent, international and apolitical centre ofresearch and consultancy in human resource issues. It worksclosely with employers in the manufacturing, service and publicsectors, government departments, agencies, professional andemployee bodies, and foundations. Since it was established over25 years ago the Institute has been a focus of knowledge andpractical experience in employment and training policy, theoperation of labour markets and human resource planning anddevelopment. IES is a not-for-profit organisation which has amultidisciplinary staff of over 50. IES expertise is available to allorganisations through research, consultancy and publications.

    IES aims to help bring about sustainable improvements inemployment policy and human resource management. IESachieves this by increasing the understanding and improvingthe practice of key decision makers in policy bodies andemploying organisations.

  • vi


    The authors would like to acknowledge the help of all theemployers and individual managers who gave up their time toshare with us their invaluable insights and experience. Wewould also like to thank Peter Reilly for his help with the field-work, Wendy Hirsh and Stephen Bevan for their many usefulcomments on early drafts.

  • vii


    Executive Summary ix

    1. The Senior Managers Study 1

    1.1 Introduction 11.2 Aims and objectives 11.3 Research methodology 21.4 Report structure 3

    2. The Role and Place of the Senior Manager 5

    2.1 Defining senior management 52.2 Understanding the role of senior managers 92.3 New organisations, new roles? 112.4 New models of organisation structure 122.5 Externalisation and customer focus 142.6 Internationalisation 152.7 Information technology 152.8 Organisational learning and leadership 162.9 Summary 17

    3. The Skills of Senior Managers 18

    3.1 The need for a managerial skill language 183.2 Skills and competencies of senior managers 223.3 Skill gaps 283.4 Future skill requirements 313.5 Summary 33

    4. Resourcing 34

    4.1 Articulating business needs 344.2 Recruitment source 394.3 The recruitment and selection process 414.4 Summary 44

  • viii

    5. Management Development 45

    5.1 Management education and training 455.2 Personal development 485.3 Career management 505.4 Summary 54

    Bibliography 55

  • ix

    Executive Summary

    The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) hascommissioned the Institute for Employment Studies to conducta programme of work exploring the nature of employers skillrequirements within occupations. This report presents thefindings of a study on the changing role of senior managers andthe implications for skills and competencies.

    The study included: a review of existing literature; interviewswith senior managers and human resource professionals in 17large employers from a range of sectors; analysis of thecompetency frameworks available from nine of the employers;and a forum at which the provisional research findings werediscussed with participants in the study. The fieldwork wasundertaken over the Summer and early Autumn of 1996.

    The role and place of the senior manager

    Our research challenges the relevance of thinking of seniormanagers as an occupational group. It shows that defining seniormanagement is fraught with difficulties. There is an increasinglyblurred distinction between jobs in the management hierarchyand managerial roles. Senior management jobs are generallycharacterised by a high degree of complexity and diversity bothbetween, and within, employer organisations. The key variablesthat determine differences between senior management jobsinclude dimensions of time (ie future/present) and focus(external/internal).

    It is possible to draw a number of commonalties, however, acrossthe objectives and responsibilities of senior managers. They are:

    l determining the organisations goals and strategies

    l resource management and business control

  • x

    l directing their part of the business

    l increasingly, managing the environment

    l and developing others.

    The experiences of the employers participating in our researchconfirm that in pursuit of competitive advantage they haveadopted one or more of the following broad types of changeinitiatives, each of which has had important implications for therole and skill requirements of senior management:

    l changes to the internal structure of the organisation (egdivisionalisation, delayering, process and matrix management)

    l externalisation and greater market/customer focus

    l internationalisation

    l dissemination of information technology

    l organisational learning and employee involvement

    Changing skill requirements

    Employers are reviewing their definition of the role and skills ofsenior managers to bring them in line with changing businessneeds. Competency based approaches are increasingly popular.

    Employers typically expect senior managers to have the skillsrequired to perform across four broad domains: organisationaldevelopment and technical know-how; conceptual and cognitiveskills; personal effectiveness; and people management skills. Thelatter softer aspects of management style and behaviour areincreasingly the focus of much attention.

    Emerging skills gaps include:

    l an imbalance between generic, and technical or functionallyspecific management skills

    l the greater emphasis on interpersonal effectiveness and a moreempowering management style

    l the ability to see interdependencies when managing change.

    General future skills issues can be inferred from organisationsbusiness priorities. They are likely to include a requirement forsenior management capability in the following areas:

    l focusing the organisation on its strategic priorities

  • xi

    l relationship building to maximise stakeholder value

    l motivating for performance improvements.

    Resourcing senior posts

    When filling senior posts employers take a number of factors intoconsideration. The most influential of these include:

    l orientation to specialist or generalist

    l the required skills or competencies

    l relevant career history

    l potential to grow with the role

    l mobility

    l personal values (increasingly viewed as an important, butdifficult to assess, differentiator).

    In recent years many employers have increased the proportion ofappointments at senior level from the external labour market, inorder to help meet a variety of business needs. Balancing the mixof external recruits with home-grown talent is a particularconcern to employers. Internal and external appointments to asenior role will have different induction needs on entry.

    The recruitment and selection process itself continues to grow insophistication, partly in response to the perception of greaterrisk associated with senior appointments in flatter organisationalstructures.

    Management development

    There are a number of broad themes emerging from employersstrategies for developing their current and future supply of seniormanagers.

    Formal business education and training for senior managers isincreasingly context specific, delivered in partnership withexternal experts, and focused on new business concepts andstrategic learning.

    Employers face some real challenges as to how best to supportthe con