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Teaching the ropes: 5 top tips for upskilling new managers

July 4, 2023
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It’s a brave new world out there for businesses. In the last few years, the market has shifted away from traditional work structures and hierarchies and towards a more collaborative and flexible view of careers. More and more people are realising that experience is not necessarily what drives a good employee — but rather their personality, enthusiasm, and cultural-fit. That’s why companies are promoting managers from within their ranks, even when the new leaders haven’t had the chance to experiment as managers before.

While we are avid believers in this process, we noticed that many organisations expect their promoted managers to hit the ground running. However, just because they were star employees doesn’t mean that they have the right skills to manage a team. The role of upskilling should fall on businesses — but that’s easier said than done. That’s why we’ve collected our top tips for helping your new managers reach their full potential.

Why is upskilling important?

We know what you may be thinking — why should you give your employee the tools and education to become a better manager, only for them to leave and utilise those skills elsewhere? The reality is a bit more complicated than that. Failing to provide upskilling to new managers (and employees generally, too) is a common reason for staff to feel like they need to move on in the first place. In fact, 83% of employees said they would choose a new employer over their current one if it offered more training and development. When you consider that 85% of employees feel incompetent at their job, it’s no wonder why businesses that invest in reversing the trend benefit from higher engagement and loyalty.

With new managers, this is especially true. Often, employees will be promoted to management positions because they are brilliant at their jobs. Management roles, though, require a little bit more than knowing how to do the job, or even fitting culturally within the team. Harnessing your new managers’ existing skills, while developing those they may be lacking, is essential for those who don’t have as much experience in their arsenal. This will improve retention, morale, motivation, and engagement.

How to upskill new managers?

With so much to worry about, especially for SMEs, upskilling tends to fall between the cracks. Check out our helpful tips to make this journey simpler.

1. Put upskilling on the agenda

It sounds self-explanatory, but its importance can’t be stressed enough. If you show your team that development is part of their job, they’ll be far more likely to gain something out of it. Upskilling must be part of work hours for it to be effective — expecting your new managers to ‘bring home their work’ after they clock out could only impede the role that development could have.

You could allocate a specific time during the week that is dedicated to upskilling, either individually or in a group (getting all new managers together could have other benefits, for example, support and bonding). Another option would be to host classes, such as training courses or leadership development lectures and stick them in your team’s calendars. Whichever way you choose, the crucial part is to ensure that your managers see these activities as part and parcel of their role, and not separate from their job.

2. Set personal development goals

Upskilling is a vague concept. What are the skills you’re trying to ‘up’? Where do you see the manager in a year’s time, let alone ten? And what is the ultimate goal you want to achieve? Before embarking on a journey of upskilling, you should have complete answers to these questions, both from a business perspective and from the managers’ perspective.

Identifying which traits you want to upskill, for example, is a significant step. A superb accountant might be meticulous, literate with numbers, and detail-oriented — but are these the most important attributes for a manager? Probably not, even if they are managing other accountants. According to our team of psychologists, the most important personality traits for managers tend to be agreeableness, empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, and ownership, so you can start by looking into developing those particular behaviours in your new manager, and setting growth goals.

3. Encourage mentorship

While we’re all in agreement that experience alone shouldn’t be the way people are promoted or hired — otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing upskilling new managers! — experience can also bear some important teachings. Connecting a less experienced new manager with a veteran can become a key source of support. What’s more, it can foster better relationships in the workplace, as well as give the mentor themselves new challenges to upskill through.

However, randomly allocating a mentor to a potential mentee might not produce the results you’re looking for. This matchmaking act should be given serious consideration — what are the mentee’s particular strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a seasoned leader who’s very strong where your fresh manager struggles? What value can this particular mentor have for the mentee? If you are able to pair a match that’s made in heaven, not only will you upskill your mentee, but also improve your turnover rates: compared to those who don’t participate in mentorship programmes, the retention rates of mentees increase by 22%, and mentors by 20%.

4. Ask for feedback

Knowing what a new manager lacks skillswise can be discerned in many ways, but simply asking is always the best way — both the manager themselves and those they manage. For the former, the process is pretty straightforward: make sure to incorporate a development element into your 1-2-1s with new managers, asking them what their goals are, where they need help, and showing them you care about their development.

Teams are where it starts getting a little more complicated. ‘Telling on’ a manager, no matter how much you explain that it’s for the benefit of everyone, can be an uncomfortable thing to ask from an employee. However, there’s a pretty simple solution — surveys. By requesting that your departments take part in surveys, you can gain some important insight into the management style they’d benefit from, their frustrations, and what they’re grateful for. This can, in turn, inform your upskilling plan.

5. Utilise personalised upskilling

Let’s face it. Humanity is wonderfully varied. The diverse tapestry of humankind is a sight to behold — no one person is identical to their peers. Although we’re all taught to celebrate our differences, for some reason, when it comes to learning, we still stick rigidly to a plan instead of leaving the dogma aside and looking at individual needs. For your development programme to succeed, it’s vital that you look into not only the strengths and weaknesses you’re trying to build on, but also the unique particularities of the person you’re trying to upskill.

The Thrive assessment is an invaluable tool for new managers. It uncovers their personality traits and cognitive capabilities, allowing you to identify what needs to be worked on — but it also provides you with ways to specifically develop that individual in the context of the behaviours you’re looking for. Tailoring personalised learning can make a huge difference in how quickly you are able to get a new manager from A to B, and makes the process much more friendly.

If you want to learn more about how Thrive can help you upskill new managers, book a demo with us today.

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