Are we promoting the right people as managers?

A worldwide survey of organisations carried out by the CMI and published in November 2012 suggests that many employees are being promoted to leadership positions without being the right people for the role, and the result is that businesses are being damaged.

The survey goes on to say that promoting the right people into management roles is not only the right thing to do, but has tangible benefits for the organisation. It increases organisational performance by 23 per cent and people performance by 32 per cent. The survey suggests that one of the underlying causes of misguided promotions is that men are being promoted into roles where more capable women are being overlooked.

Well, that’s controversial enough but there is another even more controversial insight that is bubbling away in the background: an insight that has the potential to transform the HR profession and fundamentally change most work environments for the better.

Over the last decade, the use of social capital analysis (mapping all the important informal networks that exist in organisations) has time-and-again come up with a result that is so profound that those doing the analyses were often reluctant to draw the obvious conclusions. More than half of all managers do not have anything like the personal informal networks needed to do their jobs effectively: their influence networks are often woeful and even their communication networks need to be upgraded significantly.

But that’s not all. The real elephant in the room is that (on average) organisations do have sufficient people at lower levels with both the competencies and personal informal networks to do management jobs better than half of the incumbents!

Social capital analysis is still in its adolescence but the experiences and the numbers are building up: we (and our associates) have analysed the informal networks of more than half a million employees worldwide. So we whisper it gently: over the next few years, many more of the right people will be in the right management jobs.

Neil Farmer