The business case for developing frontline managers

Manager challenges

People leave managers, not companies. Numerous studies also validate the premise that managers are critical to keeping employees happy and productive. In my view they are also the most overlooked group in an organization (when it comes to developing talents) – in particular, frontline managers.

Importance of frontline managers

It’s a no brainer that when it comes to translating a company’s strategy into results, there’s no denying the importance of the frontline manager. Studies indicate that close to 65% of an organization’s workforce is managed on a daily basis by frontline managers.

Managers on the front line are critical to sustaining quality, service, innovation, and financial performance” –  Harvard professor Linda Hill

 Bottom-line impact of frontline managers

  • They account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units (Gallup)
  • When companies increase their number of talented managers, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.
  • A survey by DDI concluded that one in four organizations reported a dip in profit due to frontline manager failure.

Key Challenges faced by frontline managers

  • The transition from being an individual contributor where one is responsible for one’s own performance, to managing the performance of others is a huge challenge.
  • A frontline manager is often required to manage the work of his/her erstwhile peers – a shift that is difficult and without preparation, results in costly mistakes for the organization as well as the individual.
  • Most of the time, frontline managers operate as cogs in a system, with limited flexibility in decision making and little room for creativity.
  • In most companies, people who have excelled as individual contributors are straight away moved up and given managerial responsibilities for which they have very little or no training at all (according to a survey, 26% of first-time managers felt they were not ready to lead others to begin with, and almost 60% said they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role).
  • Once the manager settles into the role, the burden of the business-as-usual takes over and there is no time or inclination to focus on identifying and developing necessary managerial skills.

Way forward

The first step in the journey is the assessment of an individual’s capabilities and behavioural dispositions to understand strengths and gaps. This is to be followed by focussed training, development and mentoring. Since development is an iterative process, regular reviews and periodic re-calibration is also required to check for relevance to the current business context.

Good companies understand that assessment, training and development of frontline managers is a sound investment for the future and spend time, energy and resources in ensuring that frontline managers are well equipped to excel in their roles.

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The business case for developing frontline managers

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