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; especially the front-line managers.
Importance of front-line managers
When it comes to translating a company’s strategy into results, there’s no denying the importance of the front-line manager. Studies indicate that close to 65% of an organization’s workforce is managed on a daily basis by front-line managers.
Managers on the front line are critical to sustaining quality, service, innovation, and financial performance.” - Harvard professor Linda Hill
Bottom-line impact of front-line 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 front-line manager failure.
Key Challenges faced by front-line 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 front-line 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, front-line 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 front-line managers felt they were not ready to lead others 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.
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 front-line managers is a sound investment for the future and spend time, energy and resources in ensuring that front-line managers are well equipped to excel in their roles.