Most people skills training does not provide clear, turn-by-turn processes or language for the most basic management practices. Despite a healthy budget spent on leadership development each year, we continue to see Gallup polls that identify approximately one-half of the workforce as “not engaged.” Worse, an additional 16.5% are “actively disengaged.”

As Gallup’s CEO, Jim Clifton, wrote in a 2013 blog post, “The single biggest decision you make in your job — bigger than all the rest — is who you name manager … When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits — nothing.”

In addition, nearly 60% of people leave or plan to leave their job as a direct result of the quality of their relationship with their direct supervisor. In 2018, Randstad released survey results revealing several intangible benefits and day-to-day experiences at work as reasons workers choose to leave. It comes down to effective people skills.

Why isn’t the abundance of management training and development making a difference? When employees spend the bulk of their day dealing with an ineffective manager, they’re clearly not engaged in their work, which makes an optimal customer outcome nearly impossible. If effective training can right the ship with regard to improving the manager experience, workers will be more likely to engage in the things that matter to customers, improving the customer experience.

There is a direct correlation between effective management training and employee engagement, culture and the bottom line. In his blog post, Clifton went on to say that “the right people for these roles, the ones who know best how to engage their people, [will enable] the country [to] rise up economically like never before.”

Often, the most technically inclined are the ones who are promoted, but it’s not a clear or easy jump from being great at sales to becoming an effective sales manager. It’s like being a great tennis player who can’t quite make it work as a tennis coach. This phenomenon doesn’t exist just at the front line. We see a lack of effective people skills training at every level of management, including the C-suite. While this scenario creates great job security for learning and development (L&D) experts and leadership development consultants, it’s not so great for the companies that can’t seem to provide their leaders with the resources they need to effectively manage their people. Despite our best intentions, truth of the matter is most managers are not naturally equipped to handle the people piece of their role.

Without a system (including specific processes and language) to manage others, people tend to default to how they were parented. But parenting your employees is not managing them. Management is the practice of regular observation and providing clear feedback in real time. Waiting for the weekly one-on-one or annual performance review simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Adding the millennial and Generation Z need for instant, regular feedback, management training needs to step it up in terms of communicating which specific, observable behaviors support business objectives, as well which do not.

Effective training must include tools and language on how to recognize employees who are doing something right as well as how to reduce undesired actions or behaviors. Many employees only receive feedback when they are doing something wrong (so it feels like being parented). People respond best when they feel trusted and valued and when they are told when they are doing something right as well as how to correct doing something that isn’t moving the business forward.

Behavioral research supports the practice of offering three comments that support desired behaviors for every one verbal correction of undesired behaviors. This ratio opens employees’ listening to corrective feedback, which creates higher levels of engagement and customer satisfaction. Other simple tools can provide specific, turn-by-turn language to level-set expectations and let people know how their actions and decisions are impacting business objectives. Few employees actually know how their work aligns to those business objectives, and without that connection, it’s hard to engage in meaningful work or hold themselves accountable.

The time is now to move the needle on employee engagement, with meaningful people skills training that links specific behaviors to business culture and performance. Many people are promoted into a leadership role without any guidance on how to manage people, and unless they are lucky enough to work for a company that invests in practical management processes and tools, they may be set up for failure.

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