Despite all the evidence demonstrating that employee health, well-being and engagement are important for organisational success, and that line managers are one of the most important influences on engagement, fewer than half of the 1,091 HR professionals surveyed by the CIPD last year believed that line managers are bought into the importance of well-being. What’s more, the majority of organisations still take a reactive rather than proactive approach to supporting well-being at work.

To help address this, Affinity Health at Work has worked in partnership with the CIPD, IOSH (the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) and other members of the Affinity Health at Work Research Consortium to launch a practical tool that will help organisations equip managers with the skills and behaviours to engage and protect the well-being of their teams on a day-to-day basis.

The step-by-step guide will enable organisations to design management development programmes according to their current level of maturity. It builds on a framework first published in 2014, and includes easy-to-apply checklists that have been simplified based on feedback from organisations which used the original checklists.

Two case studies published along with the tool describe in detail the management development programmes adopted by a large charity and a large private organisation. The case studies describe:

  • the factors which contributed to each programme’s success
  • how the organisations overcame any barriers and challenges
  • how they embedded the learning into managers’ overall development and performance management.

A third case study explains in detail the steps a transportation organisation took to address gaps it had identified in its approach to developing managers when they used the checklist during Affinity Health at Work’s first phase of research in 2013-14.

Critical success factors for the large charity included:

  • securing the support of senior management
  • taking a long-term strategic view
  • minimising the impact of time away from the ‘day job’ for managers taking part in the programme
  • providing opportunities for managers to put their learning into practice and get together to share experiences.

For the large private organisation, the success of the management development programme was also facilitated by demonstrating the business case for investing in well-being and the link between well-being and engagement.

Barriers to success included overcoming perceptions that managing mental health is a line manager’s responsibility, and a degree of ‘unconscious incompetence’ amongst some managers who feel confident to coach others, but actually haven’t been developed or adequately trained to coach.

To help organisations develop their own management development programmes, the researchers have drawn together some practical tips from across the three case studies in terms of how to design the programme, how to communicate it and how to deliver it.

Design tips

  1. Carry out a training needs analysis before designing the programme to see where and what the specific need is.
  2. Evaluate previous programmes before designing a new one.
  3. Carefully consider the capacity of the programme delivery team before designing supportive activities.
  4. Consider the practical time constraints of your participants.
  5. To design the best programme, involve specialists and experts where possible.
  6. Design a programme with the specific organisational culture in mind.

Communication tips

  1. Engage and collaborate as much as possible with managers in the design stage of the programme to enable greater buy-in.
  2. Gain buy-in from those with informal power and influence (such as the engagers and champions within the organisation). This is as important as gaining buy-in from those with formal power.
  3. Make a good business case for the programme by using relevant organisational data.
  4. Make the whole organisation (not just the participants) aware of the aims and objectives of the programme.
  5. Bear in mind that the organisational department sending the invitation to attend the programme will impact manager buy-in (positively or negatively). For example, an invitation from a manager's business area may be more effective than an invitation from HR or occupational health.
  6. Communicate how the programme fits with the strategy of the organisation.

Delivery tips

  1. When delivering the programme, ensure that the facilitator is able to adapt their materials and delivery to the needs of different cohorts.
  2. Ensure that the facilitator will be seen as credible by your participants.
  3. Be prepared not to have all the answers as the facilitator: In other words, be prepared to step back and allow the peer group’s knowledge and learning to shine.


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