South Africa is currently displaying a keen focus on Skills Development, as is evidenced by the South African National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS). Skills Development undoubtedly plays a key role in the country’s economic future, but are organisations spending their training funds wisely? Are staff being sent on relevant training courses or are organisations merely trying to up their B-BBEE scores with whatever training is most convenient to them? Simply training staff is not enough. Real experience must be gained through Skills Development to ensure that potential employees can actually perform according to their job descriptions.
In conjunction with the need for Skills Development, management training is essential. The Institute of People Development recently made the decision to offer specific management programmes, as well as Recognition of Prior Learning for managers, upon the realisation that many people aspiring to a management position cannot further advance in their careers if they do not have a formal management qualification. It was also found that employees that were particularly proficient in a particular skill are being promoted to management level based on their technical skills; but being a good salesman does not necessarily equate to being able to manage a sales team.
Meet Sipho Nkabinde*. Sipho’s career was one of a true rags to riches story. He beat the odds and rose to the position of sales representative at a large corporate company based in Parktown, Johannesburg. Sipho was the top salesman for two years running and he always met and exceeded his targets long before month-end. His bosses recognised his success and rewarded him with a promotion to the prestigious position of sales department manager. For a month or two, everything kept running smoothly, but this is where the fairy-tale ends. Six months later, Sipho lost his job; both he and his department had failed to meet their targets for six concurrent months. The company had lost millions in revenue and many long-standing customer relationships were severed. Sipho’s bright career was cut short, not because he was incompetent, but because he was not trained to function in a managerial role.
Had Sipho’s employer’s taken cognisance of the Peter Principle, this debacle could have been avoided and Sipho would still be gainfully employed. This management theory principle, named after Laurence L Peter (co-author to Raymond Hull of The Peter Principle: Why things go wrong, 1969), suggests that organisations that promote people based on the fact that they are performing well at their current role, rather than those that have proven their abilities in the management or intended role, are putting their organisations at risk. Employees are being promoted until such a time as they reach a position of incompetence (because they aren’t sufficiently trained), at which point everything begins to fall apart.
The best manner in which to prevent this from happening is to allocate training spend to management training. Had Sipho’s superiors made this decision before promoting him to a managerial level, he may have been able to keep the department running smoothly. Management training should be utilised to forge a strong foundation for potential managers to work from while teaching them how to build morale, engage with others and communicate effectively with their subordinates. A well trained manager will flourish through effective leadership, appropriate motivation and efficient delegation. Who better to lead any organisation into the future than a manager that has come up through the ranks and led his/her team to success?