The Bottom Line- Necessity of Training Your Managers

Front-line managers can have the single largest impact on your organization. A good (or bad) manager affects employee performance and satisfaction, productivity, efficiency, turnover, and the overall health of any organization. If your company is in business to make a profit, it goes without
saying that investing in training is a smart move.

Good management doesn’t just happen. Managers don’t inherently know how to handle delicate personnel issues or even how to effectively motivate employees. Additionally, capable and effective managers have to be trained to stay current on the latest updates in employment laws, workplace safety requirements and a host of other trends.

But, let’s face it, training takes time, energy, resources and money, which is why most organizations find it hard to invest in it. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employers with fewer than 100 employees provided only 0.8 hour – that’s only 12 minutes of manager training per six month period. And organizations with 100-500 employees provided only 0.9 hour (6 minutes) of training for the same time span.

Further, a survey by Progressive Business Publications shows that only 52% of companies trained their managers once a year or less. This lack of training is reflected in the Conference Board Report which found that less than 1/3 of all supervisors or managers were perceived to be strong leaders – which means that over 2/3 of them are perceived as being weak leaders. And as Kelly Riggs says in 1-on-1 Management, having only “one-in-three effective managers will get you broke in a hurry.” The same report found that 2/3 of employees are not motivated to drive their employer’s business goals, leaving a quarter who are simply showing up to collect a check. Obviously, a lack of managerial leadership has a direct correlation to high turnover and low productivity.

So, even though managers want training and many organizations need it, the cost usually deters them from investing in their people and implementing a training program. As with all investments, training does not come without some expense. But it’s a trade off where the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. In other words, invest a few dollars now to save lots of dollars in the future.

In organizations who have taken this important step, the benefits are almost immediate. Managers, when trained, get people engaged and motivated to increase your productivity and profitability. And that’s the result in the short-term. Think of the implications over the long-term.

The downside of doing nothing is you continue keep (and pay for) disengaged low performers who typically do not produce enough to even create a return on your investment in them. And that’s a worst case scenario. In other words, if a poor performer quits and leaves, your company will recover.

But if they quit and stay, it will cost you in the short- and long-run. In fact, a Gallup poll stated that every year disengaged employees cost the U.S. Economy $370 billion. And the primary driver of that lost productivity is poor supervision.

And speaking of turnover, author Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All the Rules) asserts that “people leave managers, not companies.”

Again, Buckingham claims that turnover is mostly a managerial issue. Greg Smith, author of Here Today Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High-Turnover to High-Retention agrees. He says that the top ten reasons people quit their jobs all fundamentally come down to management decisions and issues, not the amount of a paycheck or the extent of benefits. Yes, employees expect to be reasonably compensated for their work and they may join a company for the salary and perks, but they will leave it because of poor management.

The reason your managers and supervisors play such a crucial role in the well-being of your organization is that they are the ones who interact on a daily basis with your production people. Think of it this way: your production people are actually the last hands that touch the product you are producing. If you want to ensure quality, then your production people must be motivated to produce a quality product. They won’t do that, however, if they don’t have good management. Stephen Covey explains it like this: in a top-down management system, employees don’t normally interact with executives. But multiple times a day they interact with their direct managers. And that is precisely the reason front-line managers are the ones who need training. They have the most influence over employee morale, engagement, and performance.

There are many indications that the recession is in decline. As the economy begins to recover, people will become more likely to quit their jobs – especially if they are dissatisfied and feel they have other options. The

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that 2.1 million people quit their job in March 2012, making the number of those who quit higher than those who were laid off or discharged. And who leaves? The top talent.

They simply have more options and are usually in demand, even in a slow market. So, if you want to keep your “A” players, you must develop effective leaders. Period. If you are now convinced of the importance of training managers, the next step is to make some decisions about your potential training program. For example, in what areas should managers be trained? What kind of training is most effective for your group? Should you develop an in-house program? How do you make sure the learning sticks long after the training has ended? These are just a few of the questions that have to be answered in order to give you effective, long-lasting results.

Here are some tips.

First, you need to evaluate your organization. What specific performance issues is your organization having? High turnover? Low productivity? Decreased morale? Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the actual areas of misalignment. In these instances, the best way to know where your managers need training is by asking those they supervise.

This may be easier said than done. Many employees fear giving input for fear of retaliation. However, to get feedback you must ask for it (and ensure safety in giving a candid response). If your organization is having trouble getting honest or productive feedback, ask for it anonymously and always ask for specific examples of areas for improvement or growth.

Second, select those areas of training based on the greatest need for improvement. Many times, managers are selected because they are a good producer or individual contributor. They may have superior knowledge or technical skills. But we all know stories of people who were promoted for the wrong reasons, not given any training on how to manage others, and triggered costly legal results.

Frankly, the most common downfall of new managers is their lack of “soft” people skills. Like technical skills, soft skills can (and must) be learned. According to M.S. Rao in his articles ‘Myths and Truths about Soft Skills’, “people rise in organizations because of their hard skills and fall due to a dearth of soft skills.”

Psychologist Daniel Goleman agrees, saying that 85% of success or failure is based on an individual’s emotional intelligence. Generally, there are three areas of management interpersonal skills that need the most improvement: Communication, Organization, and Performance Management.

Communication

Often times, soft skills are automatically equated with communication skills only. And although important, soft skills do not automatically mean communication. This category more accurately covers a range of important competencies including listening, resolving conflict, negotiation, mediation, and coaching.

Organization

Organization skills range from delegating, empowering employees, managing time, and setting priorities to holding effective meetings, making decisions, overseeing projects, and problem solving. These skills are critical to the manager’s personal growth as well as his/her ability to lead others.

Performance Management

Performance Management can mean anything from setting goals, monitoring performance, motivating employees, giving feedback, building strong teams, documenting poor performance and inspiring excellence in your employees.

Managers need to be adequately trained in all these major areas, as well as being familiar with the laws and trends involving harassment, discrimination, diversity, workers’ compensation, and other legal issues.

Summary

It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the challenge you face, but think of it as a marathon – not a sprint. Your training needs will not be resolved over night. In fact, one of the secrets to adult learning is the process of consistently giving meaningful and experiential training, over a period of time. In other words, statistics show that behavior is changed through repetition over time.

For example, a training program could be designed to be done once a month for six months or a year. After the first session, homework or experiential case studies would be assigned prior to the next class. This interim period gives them time to practice the new concept/skills before the next session is scheduled. Employee development should be viewed as a long-term strategy and undertaken in steps, not all at once. To much information doled out too quickly will simply overwhelm your supervisors and will not result in any change in attitudes or behavior. In fact, it could have the opposite effect.

So, you have a choice. Now that you know the potential upside of designing a training program, as well as the downside of doing nothing, what will you do?

If you choose to do nothing you can expect your organization to stay the same. Ineffective managers will continue to cause your best people to search for new positions and unengaged employees will dampen your productivity and profitability.

But, if you choose to train your managers then you can anticipate quite a different outcome. You can expect your employees to be more engaged, solve their own problems, put forth more effort, thereby
increasing your productivity and profitability. Your turnover rates will decrease and your star employees will stick around, making your organization more profitable. And you will be a more competitive force in the marketplace, potentially earning a greater share of the market.