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Developing managers for sustainably engaged teams


Emma Donaldson & Rachel Lewis from Affinity Health at Work explain the importance of developing managers to create suitably engaged teams in the workplace.

Extensive research shows the importance of sustainable employee engagement, health and well-being due to the impact it has on organisational success.

Research has shown an association between employee psychological health and well-being and overall performance (Ford et al. 2011) and Donald et al (2005) found that 25% of the variance in employee productivity is explained by psychological well-being, perceived commitment of the organisation to the employee and resources and communication.

Additionally, research shows that the way employees are managed is a crucial factor in their health and well-being (Kelloway & Barling, 2010).

CIPD research has also found that nearly 75% of UK organisations report a management and leadership skill deficit and that the effectiveness of leadership development is viewed as the top determinant of leadership quality in an organisation.  However, developing managers is not just about finding the ‘right’ model and then applying this to deliver ‘training’ for managers.

Organisations spend vast amounts of money on management development, but is that investment always successful?


New research to help achieve success in management development

Emma Donaldson-Feilder and Rachel Lewis along with other colleagues from Affinity Health at Work (Rachel is also at Kingston Business School), recently carried out research to look at what organisations and practitioners need to do to design effective management development, support application of management skills in the workplace and set the context for sustainable behaviour change. 

The aim of the research was to create a framework for practitioners that would help them apply the available evidence about management development and contextual issues. 

Emma and Rachel recently won the British Psychological Society Practitioner of the Year Award 2014 for this research, which took an ‘evidence-based practice approach’ using a model developed by Rob Briner and colleagues in 2009.

Implications of the research

The evidence gathered in this research has a number of practical implications:

  • To improve employee engagement, health and well-being, all of which are strongly linked with organisational performance, organisations need to support line managers to develop their people management skills and adopt the behaviours shown to be important in this context
  • Multiple factors  that support programme success should be considered when designing and implementing management development; these can be considered in terms of the methodology used, characteristics of managers being developed and characteristics of the organisational environment
  • The success factors can be considered at three different chronological stages - before, during and after running the management development programme
  • The focus of management development needs to move from what skills managers need to how to develop and maintain these management skills
  • Management development should be approached from a perspective of building and supporting skills long term

National discourse

It is hoped that the project will contribute to the national discourse around management skills and management development, moving it from a focus on what skills managers need to develop, to how to develop and maintain management skills in UK workplaces.

Practical tools

One of the outputs of the research was a practical checklist for practitioners, which is free to access. 

This can help organisations explore the extent to which they have in place the factors suggested to be important for management development success.

These are divided into methodological, managerial and organisational considerations and considered at three stages: before, during and after the development programme.

To access the checklists and learn more about our research, including links to free downloads of all our research reports, guidance documents and practical tools, you can visit our website.

Progressing the research further – how you can help

We would really value your help in advancing the ‘developing managers’ research to the next stage.

Please use this link to access and fill in an online survey version of the checklists about your own experience of management development and what you have in place. 

There will be a prize draw into which those who respond to the survey will be entered, and if you would like to receive a free gap analysis report based on your responses, you can request that at the end of the survey.


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