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Unlock Your Managers’ Potential with Leadership Training

The training and development of your management team is absolutely essential to successful employee recruiting and retention, often leading to more rapid and sustainable company growth. Today’s employees are more willing than ever to leave their jobs if they’re unsatisfied at work, and a major reason for unhappy employees is poor management.

According to one study of 3000 American workers, 82% indicated they’d leave a job because of a bad manager. Factors such as micromanaging and requests to work outside of regular hours were among the top reasons participants had become dissatisfied with their managers — and were more likely to quit.

Before diving into how your company can train its managers to avoid such frustrations, let’s take a closer look at why effective leadership training is so important.

The Importance of Training Frontline Managers

Frontline managers impact most of the workforce, directly producing goods and services for customers. This means managers indirectly impact customers by just one degree of separation through production quality and employee retention. Failing to nurture a positive company culture or establishing negativity within it can quickly compound into a shrinking workforce and declining customer base.

Competent managers are capable leaders with the ability to motivate the employees they manage. They respond quickly to issues internally or externally, extending their leadership to third-party vendors and partners.

Ineffective managers, however, reflect poorly on a company's leadership, which negatively impacts employees, clients, and third parties. Poor management skills such as infrequent communication can lead to unclear employee expectations. This has the potential to compound up the chain of command, creating a situation where senior executives have no knowledge of struggling managers until it’s too late. 

When managers aren’t effective leaders, everyone suffers.

Managers need to be champions for the company's good, influencing their teams to work toward its goals. Their positive influence is what drives employees’ desire to excel rather than feel like they’re being compelled to do so.

Business Benefits of Management and Leadership Training

Effective management provides both tangible and intangible benefits to companies, such as positive company culture, high morale, and increased revenue. According to a leadership development study, companies with effective leadership, as rated by employees and outside observers, experience financial returns up to 500% greater than those with poor leadership.

This is due to the fact that effective management positively impacts the following core functionalities:

  • Attracting and Retaining Talent: Managers lead the recruiting, vetting, and onboarding of talent — ensuring new employees become long-term, productive team members. They’re also well-positioned to navigate personnel changes and other shifts in the workplace, such as individual or departmental turnover and company succession planning.
  • Building a Strong Company Culture: Managers, more than anyone else, are responsible for championing company culture. They must lead by example, teaching employees the hard and soft skills needed to succeed. Showing interest and compassion toward employees helps establish mutual respect, and recognition for good work must be balanced with discipline for poor effort.
  • Maintaining Efficient Operations: Managers are often at the forefront of decision-making, which is especially important when the unexpected happens. For example, irregularities in production can lead to inefficiencies in distribution, so managers need to ensure systems are operating as planned. When things change quickly, managers need to make decisions swiftly and clearly communicate responsibilities to impacted staff, clients, and third parties.

These business benefits are the biggest reasons leadership development training is essential for managers. Below, you’ll find four types of management training to consider, and how to create a leadership development plan that meets the unique needs of your business.

Four Impactful Types of Leadership Training

To get the most out of your managers and all other employees, you need to position them for success with a leadership development plan.

A major factor in effective leadership training is identifying a system that works for all parties. This includes both the managers being trained, their learning styles, and the senior executives or other managers training them, and their teaching styles.

Every training program is slightly different, but most management training programs fall into one of four categories: mentorship, external training, internal programs, and learning management systems

Below, we’ll take a closer look at each type of program, then chart out a leadership development plan example that spans all four.

1. Mentorship-Focused Training

Having a mentor can be beneficial for any employee or manager. Even when companies don’t have formal mentorship programs, enterprising employees will often forge those kinds of relationships on their own. Still, formalizing them is the best way to leverage the benefits and have a say in the outcomes of mentor-mentee relationships.

Ideally, senior management should be flagging highly capable managers regularly. This creates a pool of talent they can draw upon to serve as active role models for their newer peers. These mentors will teach both explicit responsibilities and implicit, unspoken expectations to identified performers through regular meetings and evaluations.

The most important skill set for this model is company-specific knowledge. Mentors should impress upon mentees how the company's inner workings impact daily work dynamics.

Two carpenters training in a carpentry workshop using a machine and working off notes

2. Workshops and External Leadership Training Programs

Another approach utilizes outsourced teaching resources, such as in-person or online workshops provided by consultants or experts in the field. Training may be required as part of the onboarding process or for career progression.

These programs are best suited for fundamental management concepts, such as:

  • Overall definition and expectations: What is a manager? What are their responsibilities?
  • Skills a manager should have: How can managers provide and measure value?
  • Communication and reporting protocol: How should managers engage clients or staff?

The best way to leverage these programs is by collaborating with the service provider to integrate your company-specific knowledge into the curriculum. Fundamentals are important, but they only go so far. Getting the most out of your manager training requires customizing it to your needs.

3. Internal Leadership Training Programs

A more impactful version of the external workshop model uses similar delivery methods, such as classes or online modules, but moves their development internally. In this approach, senior staff works with HR or external consultants to devise and deliver training “from managers to managers.” This tailors the lessons to focus on exactly what the organization expects, often from the trainers’ own experiences.

For example, senior managers can formally and informally explain organization charts and reporting structures, drawing on technical documentation and anecdotes from their own time at the company. Training can be augmented with intentional but informal interactions, such as discussions over lunch or seeking out the mentee to take a break at the same time.

This method instills trust that the company is invested in managers’ personal growth.

4. Learning Management Systems

Finally, companies may use an entirely online platform, typically called a learning management system, to train their managers. The same platform may be used for all employees, with special modules or sections focused on leadership and management. Similar to outsourced workshops, and often working in conjunction with them, these platforms are most apt for company fundamentals.

It should be noted that many fully online and asynchronous platforms are not ideal for teaching soft skills or technical skills that require practical experience. To do so, they must incorporate real-world examples and assessments that mirror the interface of enterprise software used.

Beginning in early 2023, BBSI will launch BBSI U as an additional service to its clients and partners. BBSI U is a comprehensive online learning platform that will offer a wide variety of training modules to businesses of all sizes and industries.

How to Create a Training and Development Program for Managers

Regardless of the approach, companies should tailor their leadership development coaching to meet specific organizational needs. The most impactful program for your company is one that has a high degree of customization, whether it is delivered by internal or external stakeholders or a combination thereof.

The following sections map out a six-step process to design, implement, and maintain a management training and development program.

1. Determine Your Audience And Goals

First, your company needs to identify its leadership development goals. Then, identify the intended audience and expected training program outcomes to support those goals. 

  • Who is the training for?  Is the primary audience existing managers, staff who are on an upward trajectory towards management, or new employees and new managers?
  • What do you want to achieve?  What metrics or KPIs will you use to gauge efficacy for the managers subject to training and the training program itself?

Having solid answers to these questions early on will facilitate the development of subject matter, delivery methods, and assessment protocols. For example, an external workshop geared toward new hires should focus more on the departmental organization or procedural basics, whereas mentorship for staff moving upward into management roles might focus on skill and resource gaps they need to fill.

2. Outline the Subject Matter

The next logical step is setting the stage for the program’s design, such as topics and sequencing, to meet the goals outlined above. Each program will differ, but some essentials include:

  • Company fundamentals, such as mission, vision, ethics, and values
  • Industry or market-specific ethics, expectations, and best practices
  • Managers’ organizational functions and impacts on other team members

When designing workshop content, learning modules, or talking points for mentors, it’s crucial to remember adult learning principles. Per the University of San Diego, adult learning needs:

  • Experience, ideally real-world applications. These are essential to trainees’ information uptake and retention. Most adult learners value practical exercises over theoretical definitions.
  • Engagement on a personal level. Adult learners are at their best when a concept or assignment is interesting or applies to their specific roles or responsibilities.
  • Involvement in the process. Adult learners want to feel integrated at all levels of learning, including course development. This involvement creates the best employee experience and starts engagement with course material. 

Once you know what will be taught and when, figure out where.

3. Determine the Setting

Senior management and training developers need to identify the specific venues and contexts for training. Hard distinctions should be drawn between formal and informal training, especially in more loosely defined approaches such as mentorship.

When planning for a structured training program, identify settings, activities, and tools, such as:

  • Specific offices and rooms that can be used for classes, discussions, and presentations.
  • Workstations and practical apparatuses that can be used to host live demonstrations.
  • Digital resources that can be shared, such as copies of files or databases.

You should strive to replicate real-world experiences with role-playing exercises. These may occur in isolated spaces, such as designated classrooms, and in managers’ offices, cafeterias, or other more dynamic locations. Any element that makes a scenario closely mirror real-world situations is beneficial for everyone involved.Three employees in PPE in a factory looking at a laptop and using a walkie talkie

4. Develop Training Materials

Training materials should be fully developed before the program starts to ensure instructors and mentors understand the full scope of training from the very beginning. Early prep ensures nothing important is missed.

Note: It’s easy to confuse the subject matter outline with the actual training materials, but there are important differences between them. The subject matter outline is about determining which subjects will populate lesson plans and other materials, but they are just an outline. You need to understand the context before building the actual materials.

Some examples of materials your training program may include are:

  • Training Manuals: Long, dense documents detailing everything a new manager needs to know to be effective in their role. These materials are typically required for reading during onboarding.
  • eLearning Modules: Multimedia platforms complete with text documents, video and audio files, and learning modules with assessments to gauge managers’ awareness.
  • Practical Workbooks: Shorter accompaniments to training manuals, these guides cover individual topics, such as specific social encounters or project management software.

How these materials are used or delivered depends on the training approach. For example, a learning management system may depend entirely on modules and quizzes, whereas mentorship might only touch official documentation sparingly, if at all.

After finishing this stage, your program is ready for launch.

5. Implement the Leadership Training Program

If you have thoroughly completed the above steps, launching the training program and getting managers up to speed should be straightforward. The best approach is to first test the program with a small sample size or focus group, such as one or two existing managers.

After successfully completing a run-through of the manager training program with test candidates and gathering their feedback for adjustments, you can launch with confidence. Keep in mind that you should set up the necessary infrastructure and logistics before company-wide training is assigned. Even a successful launch is not the end of the process. That success needs to be constantly sustained, measured, and refined.

6. Receive Feedback and Revise

Manager training and development is not a linear process; it’s cyclical. The last step feeds back into the first, as an effective program requires constant assessment and adjustment to get the most out of your managers and, by extension, everyone they manage. That all starts with a survey to gauge immediate impact, ideally completed right after each training session or module.

Senior managers and mentors should be checking in with managers in training at regular, longer intervals. For example, setting up monthly calls at the 30-, 60-, and 90-day marks can help determine if and how managers are using the skills they’ve learned in training. Any indication to the contrary is cause for revision. These calls can also be used to monitor and optimize managers’ long-term career development.

If you determine the training is not meeting the goals set in step #1, there’s a good chance that steps #2-4 need to be revisited. In addition, if the goals are being met, but there are other inefficiencies in new managers’ workflows, the goals themselves may need to be reassessed.

Skills Every Good Manager Should Have

A question like, “What are top leadership skills?” is less impactful than, “Which leadership skills are most useful for my company?” But no matter what your company’s leadership development goals are, you need to account for core competencies, including, but not limited to:

  • Communication: Both written and verbal skills are essential to setting the tone that staff use when talking to each other or most importantly, clients and third parties.
  • Conflict Management: The ability to diffuse personal and professional conflicts among staff improves retention and protects the company’s reputation.
  • Teamwork and Team Building: Managers need to know how to bring team members together and synergize their best qualities to get the most out of every company resource.
  • Decision-making: Every decision needs to be put through a matrix weighing its impact on the organization as a whole against potential blowback from all impacted parties.
  • Empathy: Managers must put themselves in the shoes of their employees, clients, and third parties to understand and leverage their motivation.
  • Delegation: Strong managers should know which resources are apt for which tasks, so they can avoid recommending ill-fitting solutions to problems.
  • Technological Literacy: Managers must be fluent in all technologies necessary for their current responsibilities and be open to learning new tools and approaches.
  • Performance Management: Finally, managers should know how to track their own performance and the performance of their employees and be ready to reward good work and address underperformance.

Just as employees are likely to leave companies with poor management, potential managers are likely to leave companies without opportunities to build their skills. 

When managers feel their company invests in their development, they are more inclined to stay with the company, perform at higher levels, and feel a sense of pride in their work. Taking it a step further, a manager’s commitment often translates into happier direct reports, better culture, and improved productivity.

How BBSI Helps Businesses with Leadership Training and Development

When your business partners with BBSI, you get paired with a dedicated, local team of professionals who seek to learn the unique dynamics of your company. This allows BBSI to align with your goals in order to tailor training initiatives and programs to fit you. 

To get the most out of our services, we’ll need to find out:

  • What do you want, need, or expect out of your employees?
  • How are your managers positioned with respect to other staff?
  • What is your company trying to achieve in the short- and long-term?

Whether you want to improve your management training program or get support for HR, safety, or other administrative functions, BBSI can help.

Contact your local branch to learn how BBSI can help you spearhead your management training and development.

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