In today’s talent constrained marketplace, developing competent managers is more important than ever. Frontline (or first level) managers in particular are vital to individual and organizational performance. They help attract candidates, drive employee performance, engagement and retention, and play a key role in maximizing employees’ contribution to the organization - establishing clear goals, motivating and coaching employees towards progress. In fact, managers account for up to 70% of variance in employee engagement 1, and every other person has left a company because of a bad manager 2. The employee experience is shaped by the manager, making them a lynchpin to an organization’s success.

Managers lack needed skills

Moving from individual contributor to manager requires a strong focus on building new skills, e.g., coaching rather than project managing, building open, honest relationships, challenging the routine, communicating to all levels of the organization, and prioritizing work...all while running an effective team in the meantime.

However, most managers do not naturally have what it takes. Just 1 in 10 people has the talent to manage a team 2, making identifying the right people for management positions critical. Yet 60% of managers never receive any development for the skills required to manage 3. Not surprisingly, 60% of new managers fail within 2 years 4.

Traditional approaches to manager development are insufficient

Where organizations do provide management development, solutions are often scalable at the expense of effectiveness, or rely solely on content without considering that only 10% of lasting change comes from traditional content 5. At the other extreme are pricey, customized development programs that are impractical for a large organization to roll out for all managers.

Traditional learning/training programs

Traditional approach 1: Self-service eLearning

A self-service, on-the-job approach leaves new managers largely to their own devices, providing eLearning courses, checklists, and tools. Although affordable and scalable, this approach does not create lasting skills and behavioral change. Particularly limiting is the lack of collaboration and follow-up that encourages practicing skills.

Traditional approach 2: Blended approach

The next level of investment (and return) supplements self-study and on-the-job learning with classroom training. New skills can be practiced but are not sustainable, as they remain isolated from work. Blended programs are not structured to encourage collaboration or follow-up that encourages practicing skills.

Traditional approach 3: Customized experience

A custom development program combines best practices in management thinking and learning design with the specifics of the organization, combining classroom training with eLearning and dedicated coaching. The high investment for manager development (starting at $5,000 per participant) and extended time away from the workplace makes this approach unfeasible for most organizations.

Leaders are not satisfied with these programs: Only 10% of business leaders think their frontline leadership development approach is effective 6.

"Our high-impact talent management research shows that coaching and mentoring are the most valuable talent practices to develop in an organization."
Josh Bersin Principal, Bersin by Deloitte

A new paradigm for scalable, effective manager development

Experiential, ongoing approach to development

For learners

How can an organization develop all managers effectively, providing them with skills needed to succeed? A better approach needs to balance learning modes to reflect research that shows that 90% of retained learning is experiential or social 5. The remaining 10% is traditional content.

Experiential and social learning depends on social interaction--this is particularly true for managers, who serve a critical function of communicating with a staff of people. Therefore, for a manager development program to target the most effective aspects of learning, it needs to promote extensive interaction with other people.

Fortunately, advanced Web-based software can now encourage and measure online and offline collaboration. From mentor/protege matches and relationships, to peer groups with other managers inside and outside the organization, to manager-employee interaction, collaboration not only increases lasting learning impact, it also by its nature personalizes each learner’s journey.

For L&D professionals

New collaboration-focused software can set up your managers for success, which sets up your organization for success. However, educating and equipping managers is not the sole function of an effective manager development program. A cutting-edge manager development or other learning program also needs to equip L&D professionals - the ones who spend countless hours getting this all right - with a toolbox that combines different L&D programs and tasks.

Traditional eLearning initiatives and related programs often provide fragmented tools, an incoherent learner experience, and difficulty measuring the impact of learning beyond ‘smile sheets’. In the new paradigm, Web-based software with an easy-to use interface allows L&D professionals to administer and track multiple programs, review progress and stumbling blocks, and hook into existing L&D tools such as learner records.

Getting started

Start by planning a manager development program with these three attributes. They match three key success factors as outlined in the eBook 'Ineffective Managers' :

  1. On-demand learning: Try building on curated, bite-sized content from inside your organization, and from outside best practices. This content is ‘always on’, available for managers whenever they need it, and doesn’t keep them away from the workplace. Combine that with guided experiential learning and required feedback from peers, mentors and the team. Be specific when building the experiential assignments. Asking managers to complete specific assignments on the job and report back to a mentor or peer group is the most effective way for them to retain what they learn and practice acquired skills.


  2. Socially accountable: Provide the tools for each manager to receive social support in setting and tracking against specific and measurable development goals. For example, equip each manager with a learning community consisting of a mentor and a peer group. Research shows that coaching and mentoring are the most valuable talent practices to develop in an organization.’ Then, after using intelligent software to help the manager set goals, feed progress toward those goals through social touchpoints; a new manager may need to update her mentor on progress. By making a learner accountable to a learning community, he or she will feel supported, encouraged to deliver positive results, and committed to a larger team. Research shows that coaching and mentoring are the most valuable talent practices to develop in an organization 7.

  3. Seamless learning journey: Replace the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional learning with a software-guided personal experience that intelligently incorporates people, content and feedback from various sources. Even highly sophisticated traditional custom programs fail to make these connections easy for the frontline manager 8. Smarter software powers personalization, social interaction, and higher content relevance for users, all while giving L&D professionals the tracking and analytics they need to measure program effectiveness across multiple types of audiences.

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