One of the most important services HR leaders provide is training for new managers. This type of training varies tremendously, depending on the new manager’s previous management experience or, in the case of an internal promotion, the knowledge he or she already has of company rules, regulations, and processes. It can be difficult to develop individual management training based on currently available resources, but by focusing on certain areas it’s possible to offer excellent training for both internal and external candidates who are new to supervisory roles.
Why Is New Manager Training Important?
As the old saying goes, “Employees don’t leave companies—they leave managers.” Managers “account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units,” and because low employee engagement can lead to low retention, poorly trained managers can have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. Great employees don’t always make great managers, but many management skills and qualities can be taught.
HR professionals are tasked with educating managers on best practices and company expectations in areas such as the consequences of sharing too much with their employees via social media, performance reviews, hiring and termination documentation, the ramifications of disclosing (whether intentionally or unintentionally) confidential information online, and much more. The fact that managers need to be familiar with such a wide range of topics raises several important questions: When is the best time to train new managers who aren’t hired internally? How can the company know if an internal employee is prepared for management? How can the company ensure that its policies and procedures are followed? Most importantly, how can the company’s HR leaders support new managers?
What Types of Resources and Support Do New Managers Need to Succeed?
On the Google Partners podcast, Google’s manager development programs lead, Sarah Calderon, revealed some secrets about how Google trains and develops great managers. By using strategies that build on some of Google’s examples, HR leaders can help new managers acquire the tools and experience they need to thrive in their new roles.
Don’t overwhelm new managers. Calderon recommends giving new managers a few basic resources they can use during their first few months on the job and putting them through formalized management training only after they’ve been managing for a while. (For example, someone whose department will be rapidly growing needs early access to resources on hiring, compliance, the interview process, and related areas. And someone who will be supervising a large team can benefit right away from guidance on listening and learning, as well as on how to lead with a coaching and mentoring mindset.) Offering formal training too early can overwhelm new managers, but not offering it soon enough can allow them to form bad habits.
Develop their feedback skills. Much of new manager training focuses on feedback—both giving it and receiving it. At Google, new manager training includes multiple sessions on developing emotional intelligence (EQ) and helping managers know their own triggers so they can take on challenging situations—such as dealing with feedback—with self-awareness. Managers who want to give and receive feedback well must first understand how to manage themselves and their emotions. Mentorship programs (in which new managers are paired with more experienced managers) and peer coaching among managers are two other options for helping new managers develop their feedback and mentoring skills.
Teach them to communicate effectively and to build trust. Managers provide guidance and help to their teams by communicating with them in regular team meetings, in one-on-one meetings, and in ad-hoc meetings when issues arise. In training, HR should stress the importance of using different methods of communication and educate new managers on the best practices for each. These training sessions should also cover how managers can use communication to build trust, maintain positive relationships with team members, and support employees to meet team and department goals.
Help them avoid micromanaging. One of the most common mistakes newly promoted managers make is thinking that they must know what every team member is working on at all times. After all, in the nonsupervisory roles they had before, new managers knew everything about their own work. But it’s not possible for one person to keep track of all the details involved with every team project. Micromanaging can create negative experiences by making employees feel underestimated, untrusted, and controlled. Through training, new managers should learn not only how to understand their roles, but also how to broaden their thinking to prioritize the bigger picture and team results as they relate to company goals.
Explain why and when they need HR. New managers may not be prepared for the shift from a position with a narrowly defined purpose to one with a broader scope. Therefore their training should focus deeply on identifying and managing employee issues in a broad array of areas, such as performance, personality conflicts, burnout, job stress, and even mental health. It’s important that they understand that HR is always standing by to offer guidance (and resources to share with team members) in these tricky areas.
This area of development also focuses on what the company expects from its managers. How often should they conduct performance reviews? What kinds of performance reviews work best for their teams? What decisions can they make, and what requires executive approval? How often does senior management want to be briefed (and in how much detail) about the projects that the manager is overseeing? First-time managers should be briefed on all of these topics.
How HR Can Support Managers and Leaders
HR leaders should be clear on when managers must seek their assistance. Hiring, disciplinary actions, termination, employee leave, workers’ compensation, and employee complaints (such as harassment or discrimination) are all areas that require HR input before taking action. New managers should have a strong understanding of the expectations of their roles. They also need to be aware of when to turn to HR because they want support—and when to turn to HR because legal compliance compels them to do so.
First-time managers are undertaking a huge responsibility. They will need ongoing professional development to help them grow, and opportunities for that training will come from HR. “One size fits all” step-by-step guides can cover basic compliance issues and policies, but new managers have skill sets that vary wildly. Therefore HR needs to be ready to help them improve their “soft” skills (such as negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication) through custom tailored training.
Jessica Miller-Merrell is a workplace change agent focused on human resources and talent acquisition. Named to Haydn Shaughnessy’s 2013 list of top 50 social media power influencers, she's the founder of Workology (formerly Blogging4Jobs). She can be contacted on Twitter at @jmillermerrell.