The purpose of this paper is to provide an update on a longitudinal research study that examines the content delivery of courses provided by private training providers (PTPs) for first level managers (FLMs). It measures, against a contemporary soft skill model, the relevance of “off the shelf” training which is aimed at FLMs managerial soft skills, as opposed to “technical” or “hard skill” training. The research has been carried out over three phases. The paper will critically compare and contrast the results and determine if there are any prevailing management paradigms in the content of the courses.
There were three key phases undertaken during the research. Phase 1 involved developing a multi-dimensional best practise core soft skills framework for professional managers. The second phase involved a pilot study conducted as desk research using various online and direct marketing channels in researching 45 PTPs first line manager courses in the UK over a period of two months during October to November 2011, and this exercise was repeated in phase 3 during February and March 2015 using a sample (20) of the same 45 PTPs. Both exercises involved comparing and contrasting the Core Soft Skills Framework to the PTP courses using thematic and coding techniques.
The studies have revealed surprising omissions and contrary positions when it comes to teaching FLMs non-technical skills. On some PTP courses there appeared contrary positions taken up on key managerial concepts such as leadership. In both research phases, “delegation” is an area which FLMs receive significant training. The activity of delegation is an example of top down management used to demonstrate command and control paradigms within the workplace, and fails to take into account todays cultural behavioural shifts. There is also a total lack of acknowledgement on the impact technology is having on a younger generation of managers interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
The best practise core soft skill framework is based on three key soft skill models which do not take into account soft skills for FLMs. These models do not presently exist. Both the initial study and 2015 follow-up are undertaken by desk research and the content marketing collateral as promoted by the PTPs. What actually happens on the courses themselves: broader management discussions, role play, sharing experiences, etc. cannot be evaluated as part of this research. No distinction has been made in the research with regard the length of the courses.
PTP FLM training is not irrelevant; it is necessary for managers. An issue is the training is pitched at concepts and skills which are too advanced for the FLM who are missing out on the basic non-technical skills. Without this fundamental introduction, it is teaching FLMs to run before they can walk. Of all the FLM courses now researched, there has only been one which covers all the soft skills identified in the framework. With so many core soft skills from the framework omitted from PTP FLM courses, how can FLMs be expected to grasp the basics of soft skills and apply them?
By breaking down the findings, this research can have considerable impact with regard the provision of training for new managers. It informs HR departments about the inconsistencies of new manager training between the providers, but it also highlights areas to new management which are not covered by the courses. For training providers it will act as a reminder that training courses need to be continually reviewed and redesigned to remain relevant as culture rapidly changes from a personal interaction society to a technology interaction society. As a result more emphasis needs to be placed on communication, teamwork, interaction type activities to build intuition and “nous”. Today’s young people are “streetwise” – in technology but not in personal relationships….
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