Training Your Company's Managers to Become More Effective Leaders
By Andrej Kovacevic
November 30 2019 - Finding and hiring competent managers is extremely challenging in today's competitive work environment. Top talent commands premium salaries, and that's if you can even locate viable candidates to start with. It is rare to find trustworthy and experienced managers who already have all the skills your organisation may need. Many HR professionals have come to the realisation that it is sometimes necessary to hire promising candidates and then train them to acquire the management skills they may be lacking.
Once hired, ongoing professional development is critical for managers who hope to be effective leaders. There are two major facets of this: professional development that takes place on the job, and upskilling that takes place outside of the workplace.
Both are important. This is because your leaders need to have a firm grasp on the company's current status - what is. They also need to be able to develop a vision for the future - for what should be. Without a clear understanding of both elements, they are unlikely to fully succeed in their leadership efforts.
When your managers are in the trenches every day, they will need to be advocates for, and enforcers of, company policy. You'll need them to lead by example if you hope for their subordinates to follow the policies and procedures set in place. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that they receive as much training as is required for them to become experts in the company's current policies immediately after hire.
It is most likely your managers who will sculpt and refine company policy in the future. So it is also essential for your managers to understand the broader industry trends that will affect your business.
This will require your managers to spend time outside their own offices, networking with others, and also assessing and understanding the current business environment. Alan Collins, former Vice President of Human Resources for the global PepsiCo Corporation, has repeatedly advised his colleagues in HR and management to stop hiding behind their laptops and to get out in the real world if they hope to enjoy greater success. Managers absolutely must develop and interact with a network of industry stakeholders - whether it be suppliers, customers or organisations in different but related industries. There are multiple effective ways for them to go about this:
Your managers should ideally be going out to coffee, lunch and dinner with a broad base of contacts in your industry and other related industries. They should be encouraged and empowered in outside networking to the greatest extent possible.
Your organisation will greatly benefit if its managers are allowed the time and provided with the resources to attend trade shows and conferences in a meaningful and engaged manner - perhaps as speakers, exhibitors or panelists. In cases where they are merely attendees, they'll get the most benefit from active rather than passive participation. Encourage them to attend panel discussions armed with questions to ask the presenters. Make them accountable for passing along the knowledge they acquired to their colleagues within your organisation.
Your managers are probably experts in your company's field of specialisation, whether that be finance, IT, construction or energy. However, that industry-specific expertise does not necessarily translate well to other important aspects of their role as managers. If they haven't already acquired the "people skills" necessary for effectively guiding a team to success, your organisation will benefit from helping them to acquire the management training they need.
There are multiple ways to approach this:
Encourage Certification: There are numerous leadership and management award programmes available through organisations such as the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). These programmes are designed to help working managers increase their competencies in various aspects of management. Many of these types of courses can be completed online.
Provide Funding and Time for Postgraduate Study: In the UK, it is not uncommon for employers to provide funding for their managers to acquire an MBA or other relevant postgraduate degree. The Independent has reported that 32 percent of MBA students are sponsored by their companies. These students tend to prefer studying in part-time, executive MBA programmes rather than quitting their jobs to pursue full-time study. In cases where a manager's role requires a deeper understanding than a certificate programme can provide, postgraduate study may be the optimum solution.
These are some of the most important considerations to be aware of as you recruit and train new managers for your company. It's also important to keep these considerations in mind as your managers progress in their careers. Supporting them in ongoing career development benefits your entire organisation. Beyond providing your entire team with effective leadership, it is also one of the most important things you can do to retain your managers and keep them engaged in their work.
About the author
Andrej is a dedicated writer and digital evangelist. He is pursuing an ongoing mission to share the benefits of his years of hard-won expertise with business leaders and marketing professionals everywhere. He is a contributor to a wide range of technology-focused publications.