Your Manager Training Wasn’t Working Before—Now It’s Really in Trouble
Training & Learning

Your New Manager Training Isn’t Working—Here Are 4 Ways to Revive It

There’s a good chance you’ve been going about new manager training all wrong.

And that's if you even offer new manager training. Traditional training methods like flat PowerPoint presentations, stale video courses, and long in-person seminars do little but bore managers and waste their time. These generic training methods are particularly unappealing to millennials, who now make up the bulk of new managers.

This weak approach to training is a problem for several reasons. Good managers play a huge role in the happiness and productivity of your employees — a McKinsey analysis found that the relationship between managers and employees is the biggest contributor to employee satisfaction. When your managers get regular training, studies show they’ll be more satisfied with their roles and more likely to stay with you.

Unfortunately, many companies are still stuck in the old ways of doing things, and that includes not making a genuine effort to help new managers succeed in their new roles. Most first-time managers don’t receive any leadership training during their first decade of supervising other people, and much of the existing development training does nothing to teach the organizational and interpersonal skills managers need to thrive.

To stay afloat, you need to re-invent your new manager training programs to address managers’ needs and concerns.

What's wrong with your new manager training?

Many employees get promoted to management positions because they’re strong individual contributors, but they often don't realize that being a great manager requires a whole new set of skills. Things like project organization, delegating assignments, people management, and conflict resolution come naturally to very few people. As a result, new managers often feel unprepared to handle the challenges that come with leading a team. Without proper training and guidance, they can easily become ineffective, but you can train your managers to become great leaders.

Far too often, companies take for granted just how difficult it can be to transition from a technical or functional expert to a supervisor of people, which can seriously hurt a new manager’s ability to develop and retain top talent. If your company is guilty of any the following actions, you need to reevaluate your new manager training, so your people are equipped with everything they need to succeed.

New manager training isn’t a priority for your organization

If you’ve ever had a terrible manager, you know firsthand the negative effect it can have on employee morale. Great managers fuel loyalty and inspire great performances, whereas employees who dislike their manager are more likely to leave. In one study, 82% of US employees said they'd consider resigning because of a bad manager.

Despite the significant impact managers can have on retention, many organizations overlook or completely neglect new manager training. Instead, companies pour resources into onboarding or skills training programs and pay little or no attention to management training. It's not because managers don't want to learn these skills. According to one study, 87% of middle managers wish they'd had more training when they started managing.

87% of middle managers wish they'd had more training when they started managing.

Giving your new manager training the proper attention it deserves will spread positive effects throughout your organization. A study by Gallup shows that managers are directly responsible for employee engagement. Actively engaged employees are more productive, and their work is of better quality than unengaged workers. Workers with supportive managers also advance faster and perform higher.

If managers feel they're being asked to do too much without receiving enough support from their higher-ups, they may avoid conflict with their direct reports and refuse to address problems. This can include punting on issues until they become a big problem, like ignoring an employee who is clearly struggling at work.

Traditional manager training methods no longer work

In the past, new manager training often took the form of in-person seminars and workshops, where management professionals unloaded their knowledge on attendees via long lectures. This training was too time-consuming, too broad, and too generic to create lasting behavioral change. And much of that training focused on compliance, not on changing perspectives and learning management strategies.

Times have changed — your management training needs to be flexible to stay relevant. There’s no reason to cram all your manager training into full-day lectures that take employees away from their jobs. You can now deliver training in multiple ways, including using eLearning to let managers learn at their own pace.

How to get your new manager training on track

Although we don't know what the future workplace will look like, there's no denying that remote work is here to stay. It doesn't matter if your team is fully remote or on a hybrid schedule—this shift has created a golden opportunity to redesign your manager training to be more effective than ever before.

If you provide managers with the skills they need, you’ll have more productive, happier teams throughout your company. If you want your managers to be prepared for their new roles, here’s how you need to adapt your new manager training.

1. Move to online collaboration

Now is the perfect time to shift your focus away from in-person learning to an online, collaborative training strategy. Online learning lets employees move through the material at their own pace and removes the tedious work of coordinating the schedules of team members who may be in different time zones.

You need a collaborative training method that lets you co-create training materials with internal stakeholders easily and build personalized learning paths that are unique to the skills each manager needs. This type of training allows your employees to identify their knowledge gaps and quickly request training they feel they need.

A collaborative learning platform lets you decentralize selected parts of your training and gives your subject-matter experts the tools to create interactive and engaging training programs. Managers can participate in role-playing scenarios, test their knowledge, and learn from their peers’ experiences and stories. It’s more specific to your business needs, more interesting, and more effective.

2. Establish remote communication expectations

Because this shift to remote and hybrid is relatively new, you need to develop course materials that specifically address remote work challenges. Managers who previously relied on face-to-face communication must now lean on their written and virtual communication skills. When moving from an in-person office to a distributed setup, their team may be spread out in different time zones or have unique scheduling requirements. For this reason, asynchronous communication is becoming more of a norm. Instead of wandering into someone's office with a casual question, managers now need to get information more efficiently.

Help managers adjust by setting new communication standards. This isn’t as simple as replacing in-person meetings with Zoom calls. When you go remote, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing more meetings “just to check in.” But at 360Learning, we believe that remote teams benefit from as few meetings as possible. Meetings are seen as interruptions to the workday, and scheduling too many can affect productivity. Instead, we encourage our teammates to organize meetings with a clear objective. Afterward, all outcomes are logged publicly for all teammates to see. This policy reduces pointless meetings and encourages transparency.

We document our meeting guidelines on Trello, like this:

manager training meeting guidelines

Encourage managers to adopt a more direct communication style than they might use in an office setting. As your communication moves from in-person to online, your employees are processing information in a completely new way. A lot of information needs to be passed on asynchronously, and you want to do it as efficiently as possible. Long paragraphs hurt productivity and cause employees to check out and miss key information. Avoid this by introducing conversation framing concepts like BLUF (bottom line up front) and the Pyramid Principle.

Of course, everyone in the company should be trained on these, but managers have a responsibility to make sure their teams are communicating effectively. We actually include this training in our onboarding to help our managers set this standard for their teams.

The Pyramid Principle indicates:

  • Start with the answer first
  • Group and summarize your supporting arguments
  • Logically order your supporting ideas
3 golden rules of the pyramid principle for manager training

Spend time going over appropriate video communication skills, using role-playing or creating scenarios the managers can use to test their leadership skills. It’s important that everybody on your team knows how to use your video meeting tool of choice correctly. Your managers will need to give feedback and encouragement remotely and navigate tough conversations without the benefit of in-person body language.

Managers also play a major role in building strong teams and an inclusive company culture. Company culture is just as important for remote and hybrid offices as it is in a physical office, but creating that environment looks a bit different. Newly remote managers will need training on how to facilitate remote team-building.

3. Teach remote planning and management skills

Remote and hybrid offices offer employees more autonomy but make it difficult for managers to track projects and employee performance. When a manager doesn't see their team at their desks, there's a temptation to ask a million follow-up questions, but they run the risk of being disruptive. To balance it out, you'll need to train managers to track employee productivity remotely without micromanaging their behavior.

Encourage managers to take a low-authority, high-accountability approach to people management. When you’re working remotely, the “chain of command” or decision-making needs to be straightforward so that things can move forward smoothly without having to call constant meetings. A culture of transparency, constant iteration, and performance tracking ensure that everyone stays on track and that problems quickly bubble to the service.

Train managers thoroughly on any remote management tools you institute, including Zoom, Slack, Trello, and even Google Calendars. Managers need to thoroughly understand each new tool’s best practices to guide their teams in proper use and encourage buy-in.

Teach managers to evaluate employees differently. First-time managers in office spaces often equivocate physical presence with performance goals. Without that visible market to lean on, managers need to establish new metrics for evaluation beyond measuring butts in seats. Arm managers with tools for producing more effective performance reviews based on employee work results and their ability to meet their OKRs instead of opinions on their attendance and office behavior. We recommend building clear guidelines and processes for performance reviews and making sure all managers are trained to follow the same. Our performance review guidelines are included in our onboarding program and cover the entire process, including timelines.

performance review guidelines

Measure your management training effectiveness with bottom-up reviews. A great way to know if your manager training is working is to ask for feedback from your team. At 360Learning, managers are required to initiate a feedback request to all direct reports on 7Geese. Responders are anonymous, and feedback responses are visible to the manager’s manager, as well as our Human Resources and L&D teams. This allows us to identify the gaps in management and where extra manager training may be required. Here’s an example of our feedback template on 7Geese, which includes 24 questions used for getting bottom-up feedback for our coaches (click to enlarge).

7geese leadership feedback

4. Prioritize employee well-being

Now more than ever, managers need to be aware of their employee’s needs, and that includes the signs of burnout. People with a high degree of well-being at work are 3 times more likely to intend to stay with their employer.

Spotting an employee in crisis can be difficult, especially when your employees aren’t face-to-face. Show managers how to identify and manage employee overload, both in themselves and for their direct reports.

Alter how you gauge employee well-being. At 360Learning, we use a weekly Peakon survey to gauge employee well-being. The VP of Human Resources replies personally to all messages. If the score falls too low, we talk about it during our all-hands meetings or follow up with employees one-on-one.

peakon well-being survey

Use training and simulations to help managers learn to spot employee burnout. For example, this Vyond video template helps learners use non-verbal cues to understand employees’ mental health and direct them to appropriate resources, like requesting time off. Role-playing can help managers better understand when an employee is overwhelmed and help them respond appropriately.

Have a plan to support your managers throughout their career

Once your new managers' initial training is over, have a plan in place for follow-up support. This can include regular check-ins with your new managers and their teams, as well as courses that help them continue to improve their skills.

It’s also helpful to give your new managers a mentor who can act as a sounding board for questions, concerns, and ideas during their first few months. The right mentor will provide them with advice, guidance, and advocacy when needed, including being a sounding board when things get challenging. You can also give them opportunities to work with other leaders in your organization so they can learn different management styles firsthand.

If you're ready to take your new manager training to the next level, our collaborative learning platform can make your manager training 10x more effective. Book a demo with us to learn how we can help you steer your managers toward success.

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