Found Generation

Generation X: all grown up & just getting started

Managers who run workplaces for others do not do what we think they do–if the training we provide for them is any measure.

How many times have you heard a new manager say, “I wasn’t trained,” and how many times did you stop to think about what she meant? In my own experience, this statement is not a reflection on the person doing the training, even when the speaker means it that way. Whether the untrained manager knows this or not, his statement reflects our shared misunderstanding of “management training,” and that stems from misunderstanding about what workplace managers do.

If you run a workplace for other workers, think about your own most recent job training. When your company provided what they thought was preparation to do your job, did the training prepare you to hire employees capable of supporting initiatives? If recruiting is part of your duties, did your training help you develop competent recruitment skills? Often, workplace managers are blamed for high turnover rates; in fact, your evaluation most likely includes a turnover metric for your direct reports. Did your training include practical learning designed to help you achieve reduction in turnover? My suspicion is that your training contained none of these things, or perhaps such light treatment of the subjects that your takeaway was neither “competence” nor “practical” in any way.

Let’s think of it this way. Technical mastery of company methods of inventory tracking, new hire on boarding, sales tracking, etc, will be at least part of the goal for a company’s training. Yet, if all or even most of the learning focuses on this type of knowledge, we need to admit that this is not “management training.” When the primary responsibility of the manager is people-related rather than technical, most of the learning should reflect this.

Managers of workplaces who give up on the job are often right when they say they were not trained. It’s not that there was not training, but that it was the wrong training. When teaching performance leaders to become people leaders, we must relate the skills already mastered to the skills now required. We must build a bridge for the learner between the people-skills (or soft-skills) they acquired to get promoted and the people-skills needed to lead a workplace full of others doing the very tasks that they once did so well.

It certainly complicates matters when companies acquire new managers in two very different ways: recruiting external candidates who are already great workplace managers and promoting a candidate who has mastered the skills required to deliver a company’s product and shows promise as a manager. Both of these managers will need training as they move into position, but they each need very different training.

Managers who run workplaces may deliver product, compile reports, analyze inventory, implement sales initiatives and communicate company directives–in fact, they probably do all of these things. But the primary responsibility of the workplace manager is to hire, train and retain a team and to maintain engagement in the workplace. “Management training” for these individuals must reflect what it is that we actually expect them to do.

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