Managerial competencies of middle level managers

The study examines the relative importance of the managerial competencies for effective performance at workplace. This was arrived at by surveying 115 middle level managers of the public and private sector of the general insurance companies. The results of the study revealed the most important eleven competencies from the given list of fourteen competencies. The eleven competencies comprises of ten generic and one specific competency. The eleven managerial competencies are: leadership, communication, decision-making, managerial skill, analytical skills, ability to plan, ability to motivate, inter-personal skills, team management, delegation and initiative. Job knowledge is the most essential and specific competency required for middle-level managers in general insurance sector.

Introduction

Mangham and Silver (1986) argue that to a large extent it is the competency of managers that will influence the return that an organization will secure from its investment in both human and material capital. Jubb and Robotham (1997) said that the use of competencies has proved to be perhaps the major growth area in management development during the last ten years. It is believed that acquisition of the right managerial skills, knowledge, values and thoughts enable managers to deal with the demands and constraints which they face (Joyce, 1979).

One of the earliest definitions of competency is: “a generic knowledge, motive, trait, social role or skill of a person linked to superior performance on the job.” However, the most familiar definition of competency is the one given by Boyatzis (1982) who defines competency as ‘an underlying characteristic of a person which results in effective and superior performance in the job’.

There are various definitions of competency but most of them refer to competence. Hogg (1993) defined competency as ‘competencies are the characteristics of a manager that lead to the demonstration of skills and abilities, which result in effective performance within an occupational area. Competency also embodies the capacity to transfer skills and abilities from one area to another.’

Components of Competency

Any underlying characteristic required to perform a given task, activity, or role successfully, can be considered as competency. Competency may take the following forms:

Knowledge is defined as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) complete knowledge of a particular field, all facts and information about it or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communication, association and reasoning. The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose.

An attitude is a hypothetical epithet that represents an individual’s degree of like or dislike for an item. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person- for a place, thing, or event which is referred to as the attitudinal object. It is a state of mind or a feeling; disposition; manner, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind.

A skill is the acquired capacity to carry out pre-determined tasks often with the minimum expense of time, energy, or both. It is the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well. It is the competence, excellence in performance, expertness, proficiency and dexterity to do an activity or job well.

Competency Studies

Most of the work done in this area is focused on leaders and general managers (Boyatzis, 1982). The first scientifically valid sets of scaled competencies – competencies that have sets of behaviors ordered into levels of sophistication or complexity – were developed by Spencer (1993). The competencies found to be the most critical for effective managers include impact and influence, achievement orientation, teamwork and cooperation, analytical thinking, initiative, developing others, self-confidence, directiveness, information seeking, team leadership and conceptual thinking.

Whetten and Cameron (1993) attempted to find the factors responsible for effective management, by interviewing 402 highly effective managers in the private and public sectors. They reported that the ten most frequently cited skills of effective managers, out of a total of about 60, were all behavioral skills (as distinct from attributes). They are verbal communication, managing time and stress, managing individual decisions, recognizing, defining and solving problems, motivating and influencing others, delegating, setting goals and articulating a vision, self-awareness, team building and managing conflict.

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The resultant Ocean competencies identified for the top 300 managers by Conway (1994) are considered to be appropriate to the upper four levels of management which fall into these seven major categories managing for results, knowing the market, caring for customers, managing people, analyzing and applying judgment, solving problems and making decisions , planning for the long term which may be effective on individual basis.

Kochanski, and Aycan (1997) summarized key global leadership competencies based on several sources as: business and technical knowledge, managerial competency, ability to cope with uncertainties and conflicts, willingness and ability to embrace and integrate multiple perspectives, communication effectiveness, competence in developing and maintaining good interpersonal relations, willingness and commitment to succeed, ability to motivate and develop people with potential, ability and willingness to learn from experience, and competence in playing the role of an agent of change.

May (1999) identified common management competencies relevant to all managers with responsibility for organizational resources, for operations and time management effectively, planning and decision making, managing change and quality management are required. People management requires team leadership, performance measurement, influencing others and solving legal issues of employment. Financial management needs financial control and financial planning. Information management needs communications, marketing and behavioral competencies.

Alldredge and Nilan (2000) described the development of an executive-level global competency model at 3M. The fundamental competencies are ethics and integrity, intellectual capacity, maturity and judgment. In the essential category the competencies are customer orientation, developing people, inspiring others, business health and results. The visionary competencies are global perspective, vision and strategy, nurturing innovation, building alliances, organizational agility.

Brophy and Kiely (2002) outlined the processes involved in the development of a competency based framework by middle managers of three-star Irish hotels within rooms division and the food and beverage department.

Hunt (2003) reported the results of the study about the perceived level of necessity of ninety one management and leadership competency items across three nations: Australia, the United States and Germany. As many as sixty one of the competencies are revealed to attract significantly different perceptions among managers from each of the three nations.

Khandwalla (2004) identified competencies that may aid role effectiveness at senior managerial levels. Forty-five senior manager-level competencies have been categorized into six groups as follows:

Competencies related to contextual sensitivity (power structure management)

Management of initiatives

Introduction of innovations

Resilience and effective coping through problem solving

Effective task execution

Interpersonal competence and leadership

Horey, Harvey, Curtin, Glaze, and Morath (2007) validated the army core leader competency model for United States Army research institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and the resultant competencies are: lead others, lead by example, create a positive environment, communicate, develop leaders, prepare self to lead, get results, and extend influence beyond chain of command.

Lifeng, and Kan (2007) based on the critical behavioral event interviews with eighteen senior managers of family firms, developed a competency model for senior managers of family firms in China. This competency model includes eleven competencies, namely authority orientation, initiative, opportunity-seizing, information seeking, organizational awareness, direction, benevolence orientation, self-control, self-confidence, self-learning, and impact and influence.

The middle Manager

McKenna (1999) argues that the creation of management competencies now seems to be a prerequisite for any self-respecting organization (Boyatsis, 1982; Burgoyne, 1989, 1994; Caird, 1992; Eyre and Smallman, 1998; Hales, 1986; Handy, 1987; Jackall, 1988; Elkin, 1995).

Managing relationships at that level in the organization, however, is a threefold task, requiring middle managers to act as subordinate, equal, and superior : upward, they relate to their bosses as subordinates-they take orders ; downward, they relate to their teams as superiors- they give orders ; laterally , they often relate to peers in the organizations as equals – for example, they may have to secure co-operation from a pooled sales force or solicit assistance from corporate staff services.

In keeping with their dual role, middle managers usually receive abstract guidance from superiors in the form of goals that must be translated into concrete action.

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Need for a managerial competency model for Insurance Sector

Competency based approach has recently gained attention in the insurance sector. Competency model provides the frame of reference for the performance of the very best people in the job. The characteristics of these people provide a framework for a number of human resource management processes; selection, development, succession planning, performance management and promotion. By improving the selection successes, by shifting people from average to superior performance through development and by promoting the right people, organizations can improve their overall productivity.

A competency model by itself is a solution looking for a problem. Competency models produce great competitive advantage when they are part of the delivery of the business strategy. Companies desire to increase their market share by getting more from its current employees and hiring the best in the outside market. A competency based program or model in insurance sector can identify appropriate milestones for each level of professional development, define area specific competencies by level, identify training and development resources which link to competencies and provide resources that allow each manager to identify developmental opportunities and direction.

Research objectives

Due to globalization, insurance industry has become more aware of the need for having competent employees and developing distinguished competencies for the sector. The research aims at identifying the most important managerial competencies for effective performance.

Scope

A competency based program or model in insurance sector can identify appropriate milestones for each level of professional development, define area specific competencies by level, identify training and development resources which link to competencies and provide resources that allow each manager to identify developmental opportunities and direction. As the insurance sector expects some desirable qualities, the same could be included. Periodic review on these qualities helps managers to increasingly develop themselves to fulfill such expectations. Thus, this is necessary for managerial development for the insurance companies.

Research Methodology

The list of 14 managerial competencies was given to the 115 middle level managers of general insurance sector to rank. They were required to rank these competencies from 1being most important to 14 being least important.. For the common understanding by all, the general meaning of each were provided with the form. Total 115 respondents were contacted for this purpose from the metropolitan cities in India. The methodology followed for data collection may thus be classified as a survey, though instead of a questionnaire or interview, forms were collected. The respondent Profile for the survey is presented below:-

Profile of respondents

The surveys were conducted on 308 managers across the country from the General Insurance companies in India. All the individuals studied/ approached were employed by companies operating in India. The breakup of the sample in view of various demographic variables is presented below:-

(a) Sector: Approximately equal numbers of respondents were from both the sectors. The total number of respondents from each sector is depicted below:

Table 1 Distribution of Managers Sector-wise

Sector

No. of Respondents

Public

58

Private

57

Total

115

(b) Region: The survey was conducted in all the four regions in India. The table presented below shows the number of respondents from each region:

Table 2 Distribution of Managers Region-wise.

Region

No. of Respondents

North region

34

East region

26

South region

30

West region

25

Total

115

(c) Department: The respondents of the survey were from different departments, the table below presents the distribution of respondents from each department:

Table 3 Distribution of Managers Department-wise.

Department

No. of Respondents

Administration

18

Hr/personnel

08

Marketing

42

Accounts

12

Technical

12

Claims

09

Operations

07

Public relations

02

Vigilance

01

Bancassurance

03

Reinsurance

01

Total

115

(d) Gender: It was observed that most of the respondents were male. However, the exact number of males and females in the survey are shown in the table below:

Table 4 Distribution of Managers Gender-wise.

Gender

No. of Respondents

Male

100

Female

15

Total

115

Ten general and one specific competency were identified important for managers on the basis of analysis of survey forms.

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Table 5 Position wise Analysis of Competencies

S.No.

 Competencies

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

NR

1

Analytical skills

3

10

13

7

7

11

8

9

7

6

4

1

3

26

2

Communication

16

11

21

13

13

10

9

10

4

3

1

1

3

3

Creativity

2

1

4

5

6

4

4

5

9

6

6

8

6

8

41

4

Decision making

8

10

19

20

14

10

9

8

3

6

1

1

4

5

Delegation

1

4

4

10

9

9

11

14

10

6

7

6

22

6

Flexibility

1

2

3

2

6

6

4

5

14

5

10

7

13

35

7

Initiative

1

3

2

6

6

7

8

7

17

11

6

7

7

1

27

8

Interpersonal skills

4

10

5

12

11

6

3

7

7

8

4

4

2

7

23

9

Job knowledge

36

19

15

10

4

3

3

5

4

5

2

1

1

5

10

Leadership

19

17

13

8

7

6

7

6

12

6

1

2

2

7

11

Managerial skills

16

16

6

9

13

10

3

3

5

7

4

1

5

1

14

12

Motivation

2

4

4

5

6

14

12

16

10

11

4

4

5

2

14

13

Planning

2

10

5

7

5

8

22

9

10

7

5

4

1

1

17

14

Team spirit

2

1

3

5

9

11

10

15

5

12

9

3

8

2

18

Table 5 shows that the most important competency for the managers is Job Knowledge. The sequence is followed by leadership, communication, decision-making, managerial skill, analytical skills, ability to plan, ability to motivate, inter-personal skills, team management, delegation, initiative. The two competencies which were found relatively less important are creativity and flexibility.

Table 6 Progressive Cumulative Frequencies of Competencies

S.No.

 Competencies

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

1

Analytical skills

3

13

26

33

40

51

59

68

75

81

85

86

89

89

2

Communication

16

27

48

61

74

84

93

103

107

110

111

112

112

112

3

Creativity

2

3

7

12

18

22

26

31

40

46

52

60

66

74

4

Decision making

8

18

37

57

71

81

90

98

101

107

107

107

108

109

5

Delegation

1

5

9

19

28

37

48

62

72

78

85

85

91

6

Flexibility

1

1

3

6

8

14

20

24

29

43

48

58

65

78

7

Initiative

1

4

6

12

18

25

33

40

57

68

74

81

88

89

8

Interpersonal skills

4

14

19

31

42

48

51

58

65

73

77

81

83

90

9

Job knowledge

36

55

70

80

84

87

90

95

99

104

106

107

108

108

10

Leadership

19

36

49

57

64

70

77

83

95

101

102

104

106

106

11

Managerial skills

16

32

38

47

60

70

73

76

81

88

92

93

98

99

12

Motivation

2

6

10

15

21

35

47

63

73

84

88

92

97

99

13

Planning

2

12

17

24

29

37

59

68

78

85

90

94

95

96

14

Team spirit

2

3

6

11

20

31

41

56

61

73

82

85

93

95

Table 6 represents the progressive cumulative frequencies for each competency. Cumulative frequencies are the sum of the frequencies of all points or outcomes below and including the current point. It is calculated by summing all the frequencies up to and including that frequency. After calculating the progressive cumulative frequencies of the responses it was found that the managerial competencies in the order of their importance from most important to least important are :- job knowledge, leadership, communication, decision-making, managerial skill, analytical skills, ability to plan, ability to motivate, inter-personal skills, team management, delegation, initiative, creativity and flexibility. According to Mc Clelland and Kelner (2001) a competency model for a middle-level manager is usually defined within ten to twelve competencies, of those two are relatively unique to the given role. On the basis of this pioneer study eleven competencies have been recommended for inclusion in development of training modules. Out of these eleven ten are generic competencies and one is specific competency. The study reported by Mc Clelland and Kelner says that there can be two competencies which are relatively specific to the managerial function, but in the present study only job knowledge has been found as the specific competency. Further, as the output of the research training module for each of these eleven competencies would be developed.

Conclusion

The 115 respondents from the total of 160 respondents of the metros were provided with the list of competencies and they were asked to rank them in order of their importance for a managerial job. The analysis revealed that the competencies necessary in the decreasing order of importance are: job knowledge, leadership, communication, decision making, managerial skills, analytical skills, ability to plan, ability to motivate, interpersonal skills, team management, ability to

delegate, initiative, creativity and flexibility.


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