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Management in Great Britain

16 November 2021

Team of people sat around a table in a meeting room

Reflections on management in Great Britain and its relationship to business performance and other factors was the topic of discussion at Cardiff Business School’s Breakfast Briefing on 16 November 2021.

Jakob Schneebacher from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) discussed what the ONS Management and Expectations Survey (MES) scan tell us about the current state of management practices in Great Britain.

During the session, he explored topics such as how the use of structured management practices changed in recent years, what types of firms have improved the most and how have better-managed firms fared during the pandemic, using insights from the ONS’s Management and Expectations Survey.

He began: “Over the last 50 years or so, the rate of investment in tangible physical capital, buildings, machinery has been falling across the developed world, and more steeply in service-heavy economies. At the same time, investment in intangible assets, be that research & development and branding, be that organisational capital widely construed or software assets, has been on the rise. Those in the private sector might have noticed similar trends in their offices.

“As part of this wider trend, a large share of jobs in the UK specifically are to some degree management based or organisational skill based. About 10% of jobs are primarily managerial roles and a total of 26% have some managerial or organisational component.”

He then went on to explore the distribution of management practices in Great Britain across different industries and regions, and how these practices are related to business outcomes. In particular, he highlighted recent work exploring how businesses are able to adapt in times of uncertainty, and the role of management practices in innovation.

“In the Management and Expectations Survey we asked firms about the managerial practices they use. We asked 25 questions on management practices across four categories: continuous improvement; targets; employment practices; and the use of key performance indicators.”

Overall, the ONS study found that the greatest improvement in management score in the past four years has been in smaller firms that previously had less well-structured management practices but are now catching up to the rest of the UK business population.

These businesses were primarily small and medium enterprises whereas larger companies had already adopted many structured management practices back in 2016.

When reflecting on regional differences, the southeast and Scotland are leading on average management scores, with Wales finding itself at the other end. But when balanced against industry and the size of organisations, regional differences were relatively minor.

Overall, the study also found that younger firms tended to achieve better management scores than older but otherwise similar firms.

Screenshot from presentation on management in Great Britain

The latest wave of the data was collected in 2020, making it possible to investigate if and how more structured management practices were related to firms’ experiences during the pandemic.

“Once we strip out the effect of size, age, industry and region, we find  no link at all between management practices and these outcomes in 2019, so no statistical information between management practices and home working rates, for managers or non-managers, and between management practices and online sales. But in 2020 we get this positive and statistically significant relationship.

“This suggests it is not just better managed firms are firms that are doing more homeworking or online sales anyway, it is that once those adaptations become necessary, better managed firms seem to be able to adapt more easily.”

To end, Jakob also explored the potential links between management and innovation, and research and development.

Watch the full recording of the event.

Cardiff Business School's Breakfast Briefing Series is a network of events, which enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

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Enabling our business contacts to find out more about latest business research and key developments from industry partners and practitioners.