When it comes to naturally talented people managers, the supply is lacking and demand is high, for a highly-demanding job. What is a company to do? Do they compromise on talent or are there aspects of people management that can be cultivated? Here we will explore the questions around front-line management talent and how companies can work to develop and refine it. Where natural talent is absent or unrefined, how can companies maximize the skill sets of front-line managers and help them to build upon them? Let’s find out.
What makes a front-line manager great?
To define what constitutes talent in this leadership role is a key area to examine.
Drawing from Gallup’s State of the American Manager report, there are 5 hallmarks of front-line management talent, which are:
- Individualizing the way one manages each team member
- Recognizing each team member’s needs and strengths
- Offering honest reviews of team members’ performance
- Uniting team members toward a common goal
- Executing efficient processes
In surveying an enormous pool of managers, Gallup found only 10% possess these talents. Gallup also found that another 20% of employees exhibit some characteristics of functioning managerial talent and can operate at a high level when given proper coaching and development. The statistics tell a story of low supply, but companies who invest in training and management development can improve the narrative.
An investment in front-line management talent should be a priority focus. According to the Leadership Development Roundtable of the Corporate Executive Board, “Shifting an effective manager to an effective people manager can improve employee performance by 25%, employee engagement by 52%, and employee retention by 40%.” How does this shift occur?
Because very little research has explored learning transfer in leadership development, we are only beginning to understand the areas where the transfer from development to job has been successful. One study has shown that adults learn best when new skills are taught contextually. This might look like an off-site training that simulates how front-line managers will collaborate with other departments. It may also take a long-term approach where front-line managers are checking in with their supervisors on a regular basis to refine their learning.
A good management development program will allow trainees significant time to synthesize what they are learning and to measure how well they are applying it. This may require companies to reframe their concept of management development from a one-time training to a longer journey that arcs toward proficiency.
Finding a leadership development solution that works for your company requires knowing how you can best equip and empower front-line management talent to transfer their learning onto the job. Learning more about the learning-doing gap can be a step in the right direction. Download the “4 ways to close the learning-doing gap for front-line management development” white paper to learn more.