There is an old adage that people don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad managers. If this is true, U.S. businesses are in trouble. According to recent data from Wakefield Research and Grovo, bad managers are moving in and up the ranks across industries. More than three-quarters of the middle managers surveyed believe that ineffective managers are frequently rewarded or promoted within their organizations. At the same time, 84 percent think their company needs a better way to evaluate manager ability.
The end result? Employees are working under an increasing number of bad managers and becoming distrustful of upper management’s ability to recognize and reward good talent. Organizations need to figure out a way to produce better, more effective managers—and quickly—or they risk losing top talent and creating the poor morale that accompanies employee churn.
This task is easier said than done. According to Deloitte, 90 percent of companies feel that finding and developing strong leaders is an “urgent” challenge. Furthermore, companies are already investing billions of dollars in management training. However, traditional training isn’t making the needed impact. A striking 98 percent of employees at the mid-management level believe that if managers were trained to be effective more quickly, their companies would improve in key areas, such as employee retention, office morale, client satisfaction, quality of goods and services, and overall company revenue.
Despite significant investments in management training, organizations and managers alike realize that something is missing in the manager development process. Organizations have all the pieces to create a picture of what effective management training should look like, but they have not put them together in a way that actually works.
It’s up to the C-suite to restore a sense of trust among employees at all levels within the organization. The first step is developing strong, effective managers from the moment they assume their roles. How? With training that is timely, comprehensive and sticky.
Organizations need to equip managers to deal with a wide range of issues that may present themselves at any time, such as professional development, conflict resolution, employee turnover, time management and project management. It’s true that most companies offer management training that deals with these different subject areas. However, the key to turning information into learning, and learning into action, is teaching specific behaviors as close to the point of need as possible. Aristotle said, “What we have to learn, we learn by doing.” In accordance with that insight, companies need to make relevant management training available to managers right in the workflow.
It’s not surprising that nearly 90 percent of the middle managers surveyed admitted to wanting more training when they first became a manager. Newly minted managers are ripe for absorbing information. They want to be successful. They’re looking to develop the necessary skill set for their new role.
What is surprising, however, is that many organizations train managers just two times a year. This often means that new managers are left to learn by trial and error, developing a range of bad habits over their first few months. By the time managers do receive relevant training, they’re less likely to be motivated to learn. This might account for the fact that 80 percent of managers who change their behavior after training maintain any changes for fewer than six months—at the most.
Motivation is highest during times of need. In the case of management training, it makes more sense for new managers to receive training a week before their first direct report starts, when they’re highly motivated to learn new skills. And because they can immediately start applying what they’ve learned, behaviors are more likely to stick.
Of course, there are other best practices when it comes to providing effective management training. Content should be engaging and delivered in manageable quantities (in other words, don’t overwhelm people with information overload). Similarly, follow-up is key to reinforcing what managers learned, and setting specific and measureable goals for evaluating progress is a must.
Effective management training is an essential component of the foundation of trust on which a thriving organization is built. Employees must be confident in upper management’s ability to instill strong leadership across the business. Beginning with engaging and timely training is the first step to reducing employee churn and, in turn, creating more stable, productive teams across an organization.
Joris Luijke is the vice president of people at Grovo.