The Front-Line Eunuch – Part 2

How Can We Support the Front-Line Manager?

In Part 1 we proposed a somewhat dire state of the front-line manager.  This represents both a considerable challenge and a great opportunity.  Even when organisations invest in training they often do not get the results they expect.  Why is this?


The organisations we, at Business Brains, have worked with throughout Asia have always been happy with the work we have done and we usually get great ratings for our events.  Given these positives, what causes the disappointing results that the general research shows?  When we ask what happens after the event and the marking of the assignments, the most common reply is, “we are not sure”.


It appears front-line managers go back to their jobs and disappear.  The missing activity seems to be that we don’t commit new managers to practice the new skills they will need before putting them in the job and leaving them to learn through their own errors.


In the learning field, we know that application is critical.  87% of talent development leaders agree manager training is a waste of resources unless it is sustained through actions to engage the learners and ensure that they apply what they learn over time in their new roles.  This involves coaching by their immediate managers, who are often too busy themselves to set aside coaching time.


Research (“America’s Workforce: A Revealing Study of Corporate America’s Most Neglected Employee”) shows that 82% of talent developers don’t strongly believe their company has been successful at manager development to the degree they would like.  An overwhelming 67% don’t have strong faith that sustainment of manager training is even possible in their organisation.  Across roles, 89% of managers do not hold their employees accountable for applying training back on the job.


In our management training series, we provide “sponsoring managers” with a booklet that shows them the actions they can take to help the rookie manager get through the induction into front-line management.  Our experience has been that less than 50% actually read or practice the suggestions in the book.  In fact, quite a number of participants turn up to the workshop with the sponsoring manager’s book.  When asked why they have the book the general answer is, “My manager said he supposed I should take this as well”.


Unfortunately, the attitude of, “if they go to a three-day training then I expect them to put their new skills into action when they return,” is all too prevalent.


How do we move beyond “training” to demonstrated performance?  Our present thoughts are that a series of just-in-time on-line modules should be made available so learners have access to these in the workplace as a reference when needed.  Although this is a barely adequate solution to the lack of coaching it will at least provide some backup in times of uncertainty.

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