Skilled managers have never been more critical to the success of organizations than they are today. They attract candidates, drive employee performance, engagement and retention, and play a key role in maximizing employees’ contribution to the company.
But most managers don’t actually have what it takes to be truly effective.
And most organizations do not invest appropriately in developing their frontline managers. According to a recent study, only one in nine companies apply the right resources to manager enablement. The most common approaches to developing managers are simply not effective: they provide episodic, one-size-fits-all training that don’t result in sustainable improvement.
The importance of effective frontline managers
Managers not only direct team efforts but also play a vital role in attracting and nurturing an organization’s employees. In today’s environment of increasingly scarce talent, attracting top candidates is becoming harder to do. Prospective employees want to work with people they respect and from whom they can learn.
Once employees are on board, managers need to engage them, enable their performance and retain them. The number one reason employees quit their jobs is because of a poor quality relationship with their direct manager. In fact, 50% of people have quit a job at some point in their career to “get away” from their boss.1
Frontline managers are also important to achieving business goals, according to 77% of senior leaders.2 They increase employee performance by 25% and retention by 40%. Considering the costs of human capital (typically more than half of any organization’s overall budget), these outcomes can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
Frontline managers lack needed skills
Managing is like a new career. Shifting from completing work directly to working through others is one of the most difficult career transitions. Only 1 in 10 people has the high talent required to effectively manage a team. Another 2 in 10 people can be developed based on some characteristics to be effective managers, if given the appropriate tools and resources. And yet, 60% of managers have never received any management training. While learning on the job can be effective when combined with other methods of learning, the ‘sink or swim’ approach only works for the 10% who have the natural talent to manage, leaving the rest unsupported and ineffective.
Effective frontline manager development
Most organizations deploy some methods – more often scalable but ineffective eLearning solutions – to develop frontline managers. A better approach is measurable and outcomes-based, includes the right balance of different learning modes, is personalized around the needs of each learner and provides an ongoing learning experience.
Effective programs measure what works at all levels of the Kirkpatrick Model – reactions, learning, behavior change and business results. Learning is balanced 70/20/10 between different learning modes. The 10 includes “inside” and “outside” learning, the 20 internal and external networks, and the 70 corporate, community, and social experiences.3
Learning is not an event but a constant in everyday work life, and is personalized to the specific needs and preferences of each learner in order to be more relevant and engaging. Learning is also scalable to reach deeply into the organization and help develop managers at all levels.
Learning needs to be available as needed to be applicable in the workplace. Provide curated, bite-sized, always on content that contain the best of what’s available. Videos, short articles, blog posts and other resources that take less than 5 minutes to digest are best to support busy frontline managers.
Frontline managers need to retain concepts and theories learned to apply them in the workplace. Formal learning (classroom training or self paced study) only results in a 10% retention.4 Guided, specific on-the-job assignments with a feedback mechanism will maximize learning and minimize time away from the job. Combine on-the-job tools, peer learning and mentoring experiences aligned with development goals to ensure learned concepts and skills are retained.
Classroom training often lacks relevance to job context, inhibiting the development of transferrable skills.5 Use smart technology to recommend other relevant learning based on the learner profile, putting the manager in the driver seat to decide what, when and how to learn.
Soft skills like coaching employees are crucial for frontline managers. Self study provides needed concepts but doesn’t enable practicing these skills.6 Combine short content segments with guided on-the-job assignments and immediate feedback to provide ample opportunities to improve soft skills. Establishing both peer group and one-on-one connections through mentoring programs also increases learning.7
Seamless learning journey
One size does not fit all learning styles and development needs of frontline managers. Leadership assessments, 360-degree feedback, smart technology and mentoring outside of the classroom provide nuanced input to establish individual learning goals and personalized learning recommendations.
Continuously improving management development based on what works ensures optimal resource use. Use technology for data-driven insights to inform the personalized learning of the manager. Gather ongoing feedback (self-reported and multi-rater) weeks and months after training interventions to measure behavior change and business results.
The right components and learning modes need to be combined into a meaningful learning journey.8 An integrated learning platform that incorporates guided and experiential learning, curated content, goal setting and ongoing feedback supports a personalized learning journey for the frontline manager.