Frontline managers are supervisors who are usually the first or second level of response for critical day-to-day issues regarding people, customers and projects. They’re found across industries and are a key element between an organization’s core product or service and its customers.
Employees are typically promoted to frontline manager positions because they’re great individual contributors. However, they often arrive at the role with little or no prior management experience.
“These frontline managers are critical to an organization’s operations,” says Jody M. Wheaton, executive director, Client Solutions and Programs, Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “These managers directly affect sales revenue and customer experience metrics, both of which have a significant impact on an organization. Managers in this role need to have the right tools to successfully lead their teams.”
Smart Business spoke with Wheaton about the critical role frontline managers play in organizations and why proper training is needed to ensure their effectiveness.
What are some reasons for the lack of frontline manager training?
Typical barriers include the investment required, a lack of available training resources, a lack of succession planning, employee turnover and an inability to demonstrate ROI.
When financial pressures mount, organizations tend to forgo management training — it can be considered too costly. In tough economic times, when organizations are budget watching, training and development can often be among the first programs cut. Additionally, an investment of resources is required, whether identifying third-party providers or maintaining an internal training and development team.
Regardless of the strength of the economy, when an organization’s upper management doesn’t see the value in training, it’s not provided. Instead of being proactive by identifying and preparing high-potential candidates for advancement, organizations often take a reactionary approach and suffer through challenges as the new leader adapts to their role and responsibilities.
Some organizations don’t offer training because they’re worried employees will use that training to improve their skills just to find a job outside the organization.
Lastly, building an organizational learning culture with enduring behavioral change can be time consuming if the implementation of training development programs isn’t thought out in advance.
Why should organizations train frontline managers?
Organizations increasingly recognize the need to develop their own people. From an HR perspective, the job market is competitive. Organizations are struggling to find the right talent and enough of it. That really underlines the business case for organizations to cultivate their own talent.
Frontline managers benefit greatly from training and development opportunities such as mentorship, coaching, job rotations and policies that allow for work/life balance. Investing in people is sure to show a strong return on investment for an organization.
For example, research shows that when organizations support employee development and offer advancement, it leads to improvement in employee performance and reduced turnover. In fact, research suggests that younger generations expect their employer to offer ongoing development, which makes training a key predictor of retention and engagement.
A robust training and development program can also be used in an organization’s recruitment strategies — a key differentiator in a competitive job market.
How can organizations ensure their frontline managers are prepared for their jobs?
Organizations should identify employees with supervisory potential and work training into their onboarding program or provide it early in the employee’s tenure.
Be proactive by identifying those with high potential who can move up into supervisor roles.
Take the time to develop them so that when they move into these roles, they have a solid foundation and the leadership skills necessary for effective frontline management.
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