Do Managers Need to Keep Their Knowledge Up to Date?
Keeping up to date with current legislation and changes to working practices is essential to managers in virtually all industries and business types. It is especially true for, say, health and safety managers and anyone who has a responsibility for the safety and well-being of others. Having a thorough understanding - and therefore being able to comply fully with all applicable legislation - is not only a legal requirement to avoid fines and possible imprisonment, but also to prevent accidents in the workplace.
But whilst regular health and safety training is imperative for safety managers, is it necessary for all managers?
Health and Safety in the Workplace is the Responsibility of Everyone
Continuing with the health and safety theme, workplace safety is the responsibility of everyone; both managers and employees alike. With current health and safety legislation, it is no longer acceptable in today’s workplace for somebody, especially managers, to say that company health and safety is nothing to do with them and it is up to someone else to look after it. Senior managers can delegate tasks to others, such as a dedicated health and safety manager, but the ultimate responsibility lies with them, which is many senior managers in large organisations can be prosecuted for serious safety breaches, even though they may have an entire in-house health and safety department.
What About Non-Health and Safety Issues?
Workplace health, safety and well-being is just one of many obligations and duties a manager will have to think about. Plus, although it must always be something they are aware of when they make a decision, it may not be an issue which they spend the majority of their time thinking about.
Most managers, for whom dealing with health and safety matters is not their primary job role, will likely spend most of their day concerned with the multitude of other management tasks and objectives which can accompany the position, some of which include:
- Setting the organisation's overall goals and targets
- Allocating resources
- Being an effective leader and motivating employees to perform at their best
- Managing stock inventory
- Dealing with human resource problems such as disciplinary procedures or managing staff absenteeism
- Ensuring that projects are completed on time and on budget
For these types of activities, is it necessary for managers to update their knowledge, or do best practices in these areas stay constant and unchanging year after year, and from generation to generation of managers? And if so, does that mean that managers require no additional training going forward?
The World Changes
There is no doubt that for some managerial responsibilities, what held true many years ago is still accepted today. For instance, the concept that costs need to be kept as low as reasonably possible, or that resources need to be utilised in the most efficient way, applied both to commercial businesses of yesteryear and to those of the modern era, and are unlikely to change anytime soon! So for these issues, broad knowledge around the topic will probably not require any further updates.
However for other matters, including ones which delve down deeper into the process of keeping costs low and using resources efficiently, there are quite often new ideas and methods which merit further exploration.
Changes to Philosophies and Best Working Practices
For instance, managers were presumably quite content with stocking up their factories with raw materials and other inventory, until the emergence of the Just In Time (JIT) philosophy in the 1970s in Japan which completely revolutionised the way in which the production process and wastage are managed. As a consequence, managers needed a great deal of training and development to both update their knowledge about the new process, and to break down any resistance they might have been feeling to the drastic change to how they had previously operated.
Similarly, line managers and supervisors had to adjust when Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line in the early 20th century to significantly improve efficiency and productivity for building the Ford Model T vehicles. This ground-breaking moment has been credited by many as the birth of modern mass production, and completely transformed how factories and assembly lines operated going forward.
Changes to Legislation
As well as self-initiated changes (or change in response to the new methods of a competitor), there are also changes which need to be made in response to new legislation passed. We have already seen earlier in this article how managers have to respond to new or amended health and safety legislation, but there can also be other rules and regulations which can come into force and necessitate managers to update their knowledge.
Managers must be fully aware of any changes to legislation regarding employee rights and working conditions. Just as with health and safety matters, failing to be aware of and fully understand regulatory requirements – and as such not complying with them when they come into force – can result in fines and other negative consequences for the company.
Do They Know Everything From Initial Management Training?
Of course, debating whether a manager needs to update their knowledge implies that they actually know everything to begin with, which is highly unlikely. It is rare (and arguably impossible) for a person to know everything there is to know about a subject. There will always be some new idea or suggestion which they have never encountered before and that could be used back in their organisation.
Plus it is likely that a manager has forgotten things which they were taught during their previous management training courses, especially if it was a while ago. Even experienced managers who feel that they use their managerial knowledge everyday may have become entrenched in a particular way of working and forgotten about the other, perhaps better, alternatives available to them.
Although broad business concepts such as making a profit and using resources efficiently never change, there are so many other facets of management which do require a manager to ensure that their knowledge and understanding is up to date and current.
Whilst an accredited management course will provide a lot of information and guidance on how to be an effective manager, each individual will need to continue their own education and knowledge acquisition by ensuring that they are aware of all changes in the future which will affect how they need to manage the business.
A failure to keep up with latest changes can result in falling behind more innovative competitors, or getting into trouble with the authorities. In either case, the consequences can be extremely damaging, not just for the company, but sometimes for the manager personally.