Five years ago, Wakefield Research conducted an online survey of more than 500 middle managers in a variety of companies with more than 500 employees to determine challenges and opportunities in management development.
A Sad State of Affairs
At that time, they found that:
98% of the managers felt that managers in their companies needed more training to deal with important issues, such as professional development, conflict resolution, employee turnover, time management, and project management.
Survey respondents indicated that an average of two out of five of their company’s new managers lacked management skills when they first assumed their role, and less than half of their company’s managers were highly effective.
87% of the middle managers wished they had received more management training when they first became a manager.
96% of the middle managers believed that, if managers were trained to be effective more quickly, there would be improvements in employee retention, office morale, client satisfaction, and revenue.
Bad Consequences of Ineffective Managers
The move from individual contributor to first-time manager was clearly an enormous business challenge. Five years later, it doesn’t appear that much has changed.
New managers are still unprepared for their new management responsibilities. Their lack of interpersonal and management skills has a direct negative impact on their company’s bottom line.
It takes time and money to constantly refill positions and train new employees. Poor office morale adversely affects the quality, quantity and timeliness of products and services. Unsatisfied clients not only stop doing business with the company, but they also tell others to stay away. Revenue decreases.
So, what is the solution for this sad state of affairs?
Sending the managers to training programs is not the only answer. As a matter of fact, 99% of the surveyed managers indicated that, although their companies offered management training, it was ineffective.
To a large extent, this was attributed to training that didn’t engage the participants and overwhelmed them with information. In addition, there was little follow-up to reinforce their learning or goal setting for specific application of their new skills after the training.
Management training programs are also scheduled in a way that is rarely responsive to a manager’s immediate learning needs. Managers need to handle challenges as they arise. To do that, they need relevant and timely knowledge and skills.
One-on-one coaching and mentoring can be helpful in the moment. But research has shown that repetition and reinforcement are necessary if new skills are to be retained and integrated into the manager’s skill set.
Peer Learning Groups
Peer learning groups offer a complementary approach to management development and support that is timely, targeted, relevant and reinforced.
Five managers meet when they need to handle a current management challenge. They have a 90-minute confidential conversation structured around a provided agenda, discussion points, and better practices for managing that challenge.
They select a new technique to deal with the challenge and they practice using that technique for a month. Their practice is reinforced through weekly microlearning tips, check ins with a peer buddy, and log entries of what they did, what happened, and what they learned.
They are held accountable by their peer group when they reconvene at the end of the month to report their experience in a second 90-minute session.
The Management Development Journey
The management development journey can be enriched by training, coaching, mentoring, and/or peer learning groups. Regardless of the type or combination of options for management development, it is important that this journey begin before and continue after a new manager assumes a management role.
Companies need managers who are prepared, skilled and effective if they want to stay solvent and successful.
What does your company do to prepare potential managers and upskill new managers?
Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer, The Peer Learning Institute
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