Possessing strong management skills, and putting them into practice, is key to the success of any firm. Management skills have been linked to improving productivity, firm growth and firm survival. A recent OECD report identifies management skills as one of the key ways to improve SME productivity in Ireland. Data from the World Management Survey – based on a study conducted in 2009 – show Irish managerial skills are weak when compared with other countries surveyed. Future Jobs Ireland 2019 makes 'Improving SME Productivity' one of its five key pillars and identifies the Ambition to 'Improve leadership and management skills in SMEs'.
A new study is now underway, on which details are provided below, to assess SME management skills in 2019. The State already provides a wide range of supports for SME managers who wish to up-skill, and a number of these are also set out below. The question is not simply one of providing supports; SMEs must also identify management training as a priority and take up the supports that are available. There must be a demand for management training as well as a supply of relevant courses. This supply can be met by the private sector, the university sector, or by public bodies such as Enterprise Ireland and the LEOs as well as by initiatives such as Skillnet Ireland.
My Department is now undertaking a study of management skills and practices in Ireland with a view to: (a) understanding how Irish SME managers stand when compared both internationally and to 2009, (b) identifying what the obstacles to improving the current situation may be, (c) assessing the demand for management training from SMEs and their managers and owners, and (d) detailing the supply of relevant training courses available.
The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs initiated the study, which is being supported by the European Commission under its Structural Reform Support Programme. TU Dublin are carrying out the work, which is due to be completed in Q2 2020. The research aims to understand how SME management practices now stand, in comparison to ten years ago – when a similar, but much larger, study was conducted by the Management Development Council – and internationally, as well as to identify any obstacles to improvement; both supply and demand issues will be covered. The project will make recommendations on how matters may be improved, where necessary, and will have a clear focus on how these recommendations should be implemented.
A number of the available State supports for managers wishing to up-skill are detailed below:
Enterprise Ireland supports companies in urban and rural areas to start, innovate and remain competitive in international markets, now and into the future. Enterprise Ireland helps to address the capability needs of client companies through a suite of tailored leadership and management development programmes.
Enterprise Ireland’s offers include strategic programmes that create transformational business change to flexible short programmes addressing short term business issues. These programmes are aligned to the six pillars of business growth: Strategy, People and Management, Sales and Marketing, Finance, Innovation and Operations and are further supported by customised advisory, financial and online supports.
Enterprise Ireland has a range of programmes designed to equip CEOs and senior management with the strategic tools to transform their businesses which are outlined below:
Leadership 4 Growth
Enterprise Ireland’s flagship programme, Leadership 4 Growth helps CEOs develop their own personal leadership, strategic capability, ambition and confidence. Delivered by world-class experts from IESE Business School, Barcelona, CEOs are given the tools to transform their business globally via a strategic growth plan while receiving ongoing support from a strategic business advisor.
Innovation 4 Growth
Innovation 4 Growth helps CEOs and their senior teams embed innovative thinking that stimulates business growth via new or improved business models, products, services or processes. Delivered in partnership with the Irish Management Institute and MIT Sloan School of Management, Boston, the programme also offers access to business advisors who support participants at every step.
Go Global 4 Growth
Delivered in partnership with Dublin City University, Go Global 4 Growth, a strategy implementation programme, facilitates the creation of international growth action plans by CEOs and their senior teams. Within the programme, expert business advisors mentor participating CEOs and their teams.
International Selling Programme
Aimed at CEOs and their Sales Directors, the International Selling Programme helps Irish businesses develop practical skills to optimise export sales strategies, skills and processes. Accredited by Technological University Dublin, participants create and implement an International Sales Growth Plan with the help of business advisors to transform their sales performance.
HPSU Founders Forum
Delivered in partnership with Select Strategies, the HPSU Founders Forum is a peer network of CEO founders who challenge and support each other to scale globally. Founders meet regularly in facilitated groups to share invaluable insights and tackle their toughest problems using startup best practices. The Forum also provides access to topic based clinics on Product-Market Fit, Building International Sales, Leadership & Team and Funding and Finance.
Delivered in partnership with Euronext, operators of Dublin’s stock exchange, this programme is designed for Irish companies aiming to raise strategic finance and obtain a stock market listing within five years. Senior teams learn how to engage effectively with investors, understand strategic finance options and the fund raising process and are also mentored by corporate finance experts.
Enter the Eurozone
Delivered by the European School of Management and Technology ESMT GmbH, Enter the Eurozone programme helps Irish businesses not currently exporting into the Eurozone to develop a market entry plan. CEOs and one senior colleague address their chosen market’s critical challenges and target a first significant Eurozone contract to win.
A national entrepreneurial development programme delivered by Institutes of Technology nationwide, New Frontiers offers startup businesses training and mentoring through a comprehensive set of development supports. Participants also receive office space and a €15,000 tax-free participation scholarship.
In addition, Enterprise Ireland also provides a range of short programmes offering business leaders easy-to-implement ideas to address specific issues and challenges they face as they expand their business. These programmes include:
- High Potential Start-Up SPRINT Programme
- Excel @ Market Intelligence
- Spotlight on Skills
- Attracting & Retaining Talent
- Agile Business Planning
- Innovation Short Programmes
- Excel @ Customer Value Proposition
- Excel @ Sales Pipeline Management
IDA Ireland’s Training Grant Scheme is primarily focused on assisting companies already located in Ireland to facilitate a significant upgrading of the skills base in the context of improving the company’s long-term competitiveness and transformation by:
- Raising value added.
- Allowing the operation to produce more sophisticated products or services.
- Facilitating the setting up of new ‘higher order’ functions.
- Putting in place major new management processes e.g. Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma.
- Helping to alleviate skills deficits that might threaten the development of an operation, by supporting strategic up-skilling.
In addition to training grants, IDA Ireland’s Product Development and Transformation Department has developed a number of Leadership and Management Development products aimed at working with all IDA Ireland client companies including SMEs. The programmes are aimed at supporting senior leadership teams in Ireland’s foreign multinationals to become more strategic in terms of their influence and impact, leveraging the strengths of their Irish divisions with a show of capabilities and efficiencies that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere
Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)
The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), located in the Local Authorities nationwide are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports for anyone intending to start or grow a business. The LEOs can also offer advice and guidance in areas such as Local Authority rates, Public Procurement and other regulations affecting business.
For Start-ups or expanding businesses, the LEOs may be able to offer ‘soft’ support in the form of training or provide a mentor to work with the business proposer including courses such as:
- The Accelerate Management Development programme provides the owner/manager with the management, leadership, business skills and knowledge to achieve sustainability and growth in their business. This integrated learning and mentor programme is designed to make an impact on the owner manager and their business.
- The Management Development Training Programme has been developed to uniquely facilitate the Business Owner Managers to firstly recognise the factual situation and then build their management capacity to address these issues. Most of these critical issues can be solved if “able managers” address them in time.
- LEAN for Micro is a targeted programme for Local Enterprise Office clients to help small businesses boost competitiveness, increase performance and profitability as well as building resilience within their companies.
In 2020 Skillnet Ireland are introducing a new SME upskilling scheme targeting 1,200 owners / managers to assist in responding to the productivity gap in the indigenous SME sector. This scheme aims to reach SMEs that are currently not serviced by the Skillnet Ireland training networks model, and that are not engaging in upskilling/ management development to any significant degree.