Senior decision makers working for small businesses in the UK believe they’re being held back because of a lack of proper management training, according to a new survey.

A poll of managers and directors of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) found that, while most were given responsibility for managing people, budgets and major projects at an early stage in their careers, they were unprepared for the new tasks.

Some 88 per cent of those surveyed said they thought employers could do more to equip their staff with management training and skills and 83 per cent said the Government should place greater importance on business management education.

Even more (91 per cent) said they thought schools and universities should do more to prepare students for leadership roles in the world of work

East Kilbride-based business management software company MindGenius polled 200 SME business owners, directors and managers.

Almost three quarters (72 per cent) said they were given immediate responsibility for managing people in their most recent roles but only 22 per cent said they were given ongoing training and support.

One in four said they were given no training or support at all to manage people while one in three said they were given no training or support to manage budgets.

Some 40 per cent reported that they were given responsibility for managing a major project at the very start of their careers and, of those, half were given no training or on-the-job advice for managing major projects.

“These results confirm what we’re told anecdotally by many of our clients that, in the UK, we place a high level of importance on technical competence but significantly less on management skills,” said Ashley Marron, chief executive officer of MindGenius, which produces Barvas, a cloud-based management tool for SMEs.

“The reality, in most industries, is that people who demonstrate a high level of technical proficiency are invariably placed in management roles for which they are ill-equipped.

“Suddenly they find themselves having to plan, make strategic decisions, manage people and balance budgets, none of which they have been trained to do.”

He added:

“Other developed countries, including the United States, Germany and Japan, see business management as an essential discipline while, for many of our companies, it’s an afterthought.”

The MindGenius survey found that only 3 per cent of respondents thought UK companies led the world in the quality of their management while 57 per cent said they rank from the middle to the bottom among developed nations. Two thirds said they believed bosses placed too little importance on management training.