Management Training

Article excerpt

Supervisory and managerial positions are subject to turnover: Some people leave for other opportunities, some fail, some receive promotions. As a result, it would seem logical for every company to have a planned curriculum of formal management training to promptly fill vacancies as they occur with qualified individuals.

Yet few companies in our industry have such a program. I think three reasons for this are (1) many companies are too small or too young (or both) to have developed a mature infrastructure of support services; (2) most senior officers grew up in similar entrepreneurial shops and don't have formal management development as part of their organizational mental blueprints; and (3) management training requires a commitment of time and money today against a future payback of improved (but largely unmeasurable) managerial performance.

But these are excuses. Given inexorable turnover and postulating that the skills managers need can be developed (to a degree) by formal training, then management training should be part of every company's strategic plan.

If your company does not have a defined management training program, then the following four questions and answers may help you to determine a course of action.

* Who is the target audience? I suggest focusing on a cross section of your organizational pyramid including, at the top, your assistant vice presidents and, at the bottom, those nonexempt people considered potential candidates for promotion into management within the next year.

Two notes of explanation: first, executive training is a separate topic and will be treated in a subsequent column. Second, I strongly believe that management training should be made available to senior hourly employees before they are promoted to management. This is not a usual practice. But is it radical to recommend that we give people an opportunity to acquire skills before they will need them on the job?

* What should a management training program include? A dozen training directors will give a dozen different answers to this question. Here is one of many viable options.

My concept of management training is a three-tiered pyramid. The bottom tier is a three- to five-day mandatory course for your target population. It should begin with goal setting, the most fundamental management skill. Then it should follow a logical flow through the subsequent steps of managerial achievement: establishing and communicating performance standards; monitoring performance; giving feedback; and delivering constructive performance appraisals. (Within the training profession this process - from establishing goals to evaluating performance - is sliced and diced endlessly, and the component pieces renamed every five years, but the fundamentals categorically do not change.)

The second tier of the pyramid is a clutch of half-day to day-and-a-half courses, each covering one topic. These courses are not hierarchical. Anyone who has completed the core course should be eligible to attend any of these courses in any order.

I suggest interviewing, discipline and time management as key offerings. But that is a personal preference, and one that dates me rather badly. Current thinking would center on team building, managing diversity and empowerment.

Communication skills is a perennial favorite; so is problem solving. Other topics that have stood the test of time include listening skills, creativity, coaching and counseling, managing change and dealing with difficult or marginal performers.

These courses can be selected according to perceived need and targeted to those most likely to profit from them. Titles can be added or deleted as management priorities shift. In their totality, these courses are a tangible expression of what top management wants its subordinates to do and to value.

The top tier of the pyramid should be a three- to five-day course comprising skills critical to more-advanced managers. …

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