Managing the Manager: Providing People Leaders with the Right Skills
What makes a good manager? The traditional “career ladder” model suggests that managers are chosen from top individual contributors, and then those individuals continue to climb a fairly straightforward path until senior leadership. Today, the role of manager is more than a stop on a career trajectory. We entrust our managers to do more than just manage—we expect them to coach and develop their direct reports and keep teams engaged all while helping the organization move towards its strategic goals. But managerial skills are not innate. Excellence as an individual contributor does not necessarily mean an individual will make a good manager. How can organizations ensure that their managers have the skillsets necessary to manage well?
Recent HCI research has shown that business leaders overwhelmingly agree that front-line managers are essential to the success of the business. But only 48% agree that they adequately invest in front-line manager development. Unfortunately, many organizations take a “sink or swim” approach to new managers. Nearly 20% of training budgets is dedicated to new managers, but the majority of that training is passive in nature—it emphasizes classroom-based and technology-led learning over peer and experiental learning.
What can HR and L&D leaders do to set new managers up for success? Eight out of ten front-line managers have been promoted from within, but organizations must move beyond subjective recommendations that may be prone to bias or error. Assess front-line manager leadership potential with a combination of performance reviews, talent reviews/calibrations and other standardized criteria such as assessments. Also, it’s crucial to ask managerial candidates about their career goals—do they want to be a manager, or would they prefer to excel in individual contributor roles?
Next, a strong commitment to ongoing training is crucial for new manager success. A varied approach to training is ideal, such as a blend of on-the-job training, peer networking, mentorship with experienced leaders, and formal classroom training. For managers hired from outside the organization, a formal onboarding process can ease the transition into the new role, maintain engagement and help set up new managers for success.
What does this look like in practice? In this upcoming webcast, explore how the University of California rose to the challenge, creating and deploying targeted development programs that set out to skill and prepare over 46,000 people managers across a geographically dispersed University system. Register here for the webcast, “Equip or Fail: The Why and How of Arming People Managers to Engage and Develop Employees” featuring Donna Salvo, Executive Director for Systemwide Talent Management and Staff Development at the University of California and Tena Lyons, VP of Product Marketing for SumTotal.