Learning & Development

Bridging the soft skills gap – don’t forget your accidental managers

accidental manager


Most organisations have them: those individuals who have been given managerial responsibilities with little training. These are the accidental managers, and they need your support.

At 5app we are hearing through our customer network that this phenomenon of accidental managers is on the rise. This is due to change and transformation within organisations. As organisations change as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic so some employees have been asked to take on management responsibilities.  

If your organisation is seeing a rise in the number of accidental managers then you need to act to support them in developing their management skills. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that 84% of workers in the US say poorly trained managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress. Over half (57%) say managers in their workplace could benefit from training on how to be better people managers.

More worrying is the fact that companies fail to choose the right people to be managers 82% of the time.

Recognising the skills gap

Supporting and developing accidental managers is a skills issue and should be seen in the broader context of skills development across the organisation. It is worth noting that the SHRM research listed the top five skills people managers could improve as:

  1. Communicating effectively
  2. Developing and training the team
  3. Managing and delegating
  4. Cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture
  5. Managing team performance

These skills are soft skills and reflect the priority skills for organisations listed by the World Economic Forum.  Many of the skills needed by managers are the skills needed by employees too. It’s useful for organisations to see the development of accidental managers as a part of a broader strategy to bridge the soft skills gap.

How to support accidental managers

So how can organisations support accidental managers in becoming better managers? Engage for Success, an organisation that promotes employee engagement, set out eight tips for the accidental manager. They are:

  1. Boost your skill set
  2. Hire a diverse team
  3. Take inspiration from Eisenhower (know how to prioritise tasks)
  4. Break your workload down
  5. Don’t be too nice
  6. Keep an open door policy
  7. The 4Cs – critical thinking, effective communication, creativity and collaboration
  8. Step up

All of these tips require soft skills or are soft skills. It’s interesting to note that Engage for Success says the 4Cs are what organisations should look for in both employees and managers. The soft skills gap is one facing managers and employees.

Bridging the soft skills gap

At 5App, we help organisations and teams develop the soft skills they need to thrive now and into the future.

We do this through providing managers with the tools they need to develop their own learning and that of their team and by providing organisations with the tools to engage their manager community around learning and development.

This approach is based on our three pillars of agile learning:

1. Development

To support the development of individuals and teams, by curating the digital learning people need to develop their skills.

2. Knowledge

To improve operational performance, by curating the information and resources people need to do their job.

3. Communication

To connect people with what is going on in the organisation by curating the news and information people need.

These pillars reflect the way learning is changing and the way those changes have been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

To help accidental managers develop the right soft skills, employers must focus on how they engage their managers around learning. That means understanding their information needs and delivering the resources they need at the right time and in the right way.  This is about effective communication and ensuring you meet the needs of your managers. With so much rapid change across organisations, L&D teams must ensure there are regular two-way communications with their manager community. This will ensure managers are provided with the right support to develop their soft skills.

Feedback from our clients shows that curating resources into playlists is a powerful way to engage colleagues. Curation enables you to quickly select the best resources on a topic and playlists provide an easily accessible format to deliver the content.

By combining these resources with news items and topical company messaging, our client Greystar saw an uplift in the number of employees accessing learning resources, which led to a 24% increase in performance and productivity.

The key here is to listen to your managers, provide what they need in a timely way and in an accessible format and communicate with them effectively and regularly. And don’t forget to keep a constant eye on your learning metrics. These will tell you the effectiveness of the resources you share and enable you to tweak them as required. 

Accidental managers, wellbeing and inclusion

An increasingly important part of the soft skills agenda for managers is diversity, inclusion and wellbeing. This was reflected in the SHRM research we shared earlier in the article. Employers can support managers in becoming more inclusive by curating and sharing equality, diversity and inclusion resources. Managers can then use these resources to start conversations within teams about how to become more inclusive.

For example, our customer Spirit Energy worked with internal employee influencers who ran internal networks such as the LGBT+ network to create and share playlists relevant to their communities. This approach helped support those internal communities, amplified their voices, gave them a safe space to be authentic and a sense of belonging within the organisation, central to creating an inclusive culture.

And as organisations look to future ways of working, such as hybrid working, so managers need to consider the impact of these new ways of working on the wellbeing of their team. What will the new working routine look like? What are the implications for the team? And what are the expectations around wellbeing?

Wellbeing, diversity and inclusion are also a part of the soft skills gap facing accidental managers. It is important organisations acknowledge these skills gaps in order to ensure they focus skills development on the right skills.


Developing the right soft skills for your entire organisation is now a business imperative. Change and transformation demand your employees have the right soft skills they need to be successful in their roles.

Accidental managers are just that, accidental. They have stepped up to help your organisation and now you need to step up to help them. Identify your accidental managers and ask what they need to help succeed in their role.  Many of the soft skills they will need to develop will be the same or similar to those their team will need to develop, so there will be opportunities for teams to learn together. This is an approach to learning that could really help develop learning cultures within teams.

Use a platform that supports your new ways of working and learning and can help to bridge the soft skills gap. 5app can support your L&D strategy, create a learning culture, and aligning learning with the business needs and objectives.

Get in touch to find out more.


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