The South African Management Index – formerly known as the USB-ED Management Index – was first published in 2014 as a surveyed indicator of aspects that were going well for South African managers as well as those that organisations still needed to sharpen. As the only instrument of its kind in South Africa, it provides a detailed exploration of the key leadership and organisational challenges facing managers in this country.
The enthusiasm with which the results of the first as well as the second Management Index were met has highlighted the value of understanding the many challenges facing South African managers as well as the opportunities available to them.
The third edition of the South African Management Index, to be published in June 2015, expands on the findings of the first and second surveys, with the data gathered allowing the researchers to develop rich and interesting interpretations regarding the managerial context in South Africa.
An electronic questionnaire was distributed to managers across South Africa during November 2015, to which a total of 1 228 managers responded. This represents the largest sample size to date. The majority of survey respondents represent organisations located in Gauteng (55.1%), followed by the Western Cape (24.5%) and KwaZulu-Natal (10%). Managers from all sectors of the South African economy are represented, with the majority employed in the financial intermediation (16.4%) and manufacturing (15.1%) sectors.
Most (63.1%) of the managers that participated in the survey represent private sector organisations and occupy senior management positions (38.4%). Forty per cent of the respondents have between one and five employees reporting to them. Thirty per cent have between six and 10 employees reporting directly to them, while 16.4 per cent have more than 20 employees reporting to them.
Small, medium and large companies are represented in the survey, with the majority of respondents (28.3%) working for companies that employ between 50 and 500 employees.
Topics explored in this year’s survey include: the current management, organisational and personal challenges facing South African managers; managerial and organisational responses to change and transformation; perspectives on diversity management and inclusion in South African workplaces; organisational approaches to learning and development; levels of organisational pride and commitment among South African managers; leadership development and the leadership pipeline in South African organisations; and managerial responses to the innovation objectives of their organisations.
Key findings from the most recent survey include:
Perceptions of the current economic climate
- Given the economic challenges faced by South Africa over the past year, it comes as no surprise that almost 65 per cent of managers believe that their organisations are suffering in the current economic climate. The majority (82%), however, are of the opinion that their organisations are well placed to survive and thrive.
- While the majority of South African managers are still generally hopeful about their organisations’ potential to weather the country’s worsening economic climate, they are slightly less optimistic than the managers surveyed during the first Management Index in 2013.
Organisational pride and commitment
- South African managers generally express high levels of commitment to and pride in their organisations. Almost 87 per cent are satisfied to be working for their organisations and 78 per cent intend to be working for their organisations in two years’ time.
Current leadership quality
- Organisational leadership is highly rated by the majority of managers that participated in the survey. Almost three-quarters of the managers surveyed believe that top leadership in their organisations are effective and provide direction. Approximately 74 per cent of managers surveyed are of the opinion that top leadership in their organisations is trustworthy and has a clear vision.
- Effective communication appears to be an area for further development as almost half of the respondents feel that top leadership in their organisations is not spending sufficient time communicating with staff and is not communicating clearly.
- The successful management of change continues to be a challenge for many South African organisations. Despite the fact that over 90 per cent of managers surveyed regard leading and managing change as a significant aspect of their roles and responsibilities, only 66 per cent believe that top leaders in their organisations have the skills they need to lead change well. Even fewer (58.2%) are of the opinion that top leaders in their organisations are developed to lead change well.
- Perceptions of organisational trust have declined since the first Management Index Survey in 2013. In 2013, almost 63 per cent of managers agreed that strong cultures of trust exist in their organisations, compared with only 51% in 2015.
- Almost all the managers that participated in the survey view innovation as an opportunity for their organisations to differentiate themselves from their competitors and over 85 per cent agree that competitive forces and stakeholders are driving their organisations to become more innovative.
- The majority of respondents that participated in our survey are positive about their organisations’ efforts to foster a diversity-friendly environment. Almost 80 per cent agree that leaders in their organisations are visibly committed to diversity, while 80 per cent believe that their organisations value diverse perspectives.
Wellbeing and work–life balance
- Despite the fact that the majority of South African managers frequently take work home, most (62%) are satisfied with their work–life balance and over 90 per cent maintain that they are able to cope with the pressures and stress of work. Less than half (45%) of the managers surveyed feel that the demands of work interfere with their private/family life and almost 60 per cent believe that their organisations care about their wellbeing.
- As reported in previous surveys, women managers’ report significantly lower levels of satisfaction with work–life balance than their male counterparts. Female managers are also less likely than their male counterparts to feel that the organisation for which they work cares about their wellbeing.
- Managers ranked the opportunity to learn and develop new skills and knowledge, and engage in interesting/challenging work as their top motivators.
- The majority of organisations represented, however, are out of touch with what motivates their employees, with only 53 per cent of managers maintaining that their organisations take the right approach towards motivation.
- Findings from the survey suggest that South African organisations can do more to improve their leadership development efforts. While almost 70 per cent of the respondents agreed that their organisations have sufficient leadership talent to address the current challenges facing their organisations, less than 61 per cent agree that their organisations have sufficient leadership talent to address the future needs of the organisation.
- Almost 40 per cent of managers surveyed believe that their organisations are not doing enough to develop the next generation of leaders.
- Women managers’ report significantly fewer opportunities to develop their leadership skills when compared with their male counterparts.
Learning and development
- While close to 90 per cent of managers are confident that they will be able to handle the management challenges of the future effectively, only 52 per cent believe that sufficient time is allocated to their learning and development needs. Less than half of our respondents have a career development plan in place to ensure their growth in their organisations and the minority (42%) maintain that there is sufficient support for career development within their organisations.
- South African organisations may also not be investing sufficient energy and attention into team learning and development needs. While 81 per cent of managers are required to manage people in cross-functional and virtual teams, almost half disagree that their organisations provide sufficient support for virtual team-work or that sufficient time is allocated to team learning and development.
- Managers ranked coaching and developing others as the most important skill that a manager should possess, followed by strategic thinking, and developing strong networks and partnerships.
- A range of learning and development approaches are used by South African organisations. In-company courses run by internal trainers appear to be the most frequently used learning and development interventions, followed by open-enrolment courses and customised courses run by external providers. All approaches to learning and development are rated as effective by the majority of respondents, with customised courses run by external providers being ranked as the most effective.
The South African Management Index has once again provided insights into the topical managerial landscape. Based on the largest sample to date, the findings represent a diverse range of perspectives and viewpoints, as managers across all sectors of the South African economy are represented. Small, medium and large companies are represented in the survey and the proportion of women managers that responded to the survey has increased significantly.
While the South African Management Index offers some critical insights into the challenges facing managers in South Africa, it also affirms the many positive aspects of organisational life in the country. Managers express high levels of commitment to and pride in their organisations and the majority still intend to be working for their organisations in two years’ time. Managers are positive about their organisations’ efforts to foster diversity-friendly environments and the majority express confidence in their organisations’ innovation objectives.
On the downside, the survey points to a number of challenges facing South African managers and the organisations for which they work. While the majority of managers are still generally hopeful about their organisations’ potential to weather the country’s current economic challenges, they are less optimistic than the managers surveyed in the first Management Index of 2013/2014. Clear and effective communication from top leadership remains a challenge for South African managers, with almost half of the managers surveyed stating that top leaders in their organisations do not communicate clearly or spend sufficient time communicating with staff. Furthermore, only 51 per cent of the managers that participated in this year’s survey believe that strong cultures of trust exist in their organisations. This is a matter for concern, especially when one considers that perceptions of organisational trust have declined since the first Management Index in 2013/2014.
Gender disparities are once again evident in the survey data. Women managers still report lower levels of work–life balance and authenticity at work when compared with their male counterparts. They also report significantly fewer opportunities to develop their leadership skills when compared with their male counterparts.
Findings from the survey also suggest that South African organisations can do more to improve their leadership development efforts. Almost 40 per cent of the managers surveyed believe that their organisations do not have sufficient leadership talent to address the future needs of the organisation and that their organisations are not doing enough to develop the next generation of leaders.
To allow South African organisations to move forward and prosper, these challenges will need to be addressed. Organisations across the country need to re-affirm their leadership development efforts, with particular focus on the younger generations and women. Interventions aimed at building organisational trust, enhancing top leadership communication and managing change will go a long way to strengthening South African organisations.
Dr Diane Bell is the lead researcher and co-author of the Management Index Report. She is director of Academic Affairs at USB-ED and is a senior lecturer extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. She specialises in diversity management, focusing on persons with disabilities in the workplace.
Dr Carly Steyn is the co-researcher, analyst and co-author of the Management Index Report. She is a senior lecturer at the School of Business and Finance, University of the Western Cape. She specialises in organisational development, with a specific focus on employee wellbeing.