Training and Transforming Managers for the Future of Work
March 29, 2023
As the role of managers changes, organizations are finding new ways of effective manager training.
- Management styles have largely shifted from focusing on directing employees to taking a more instructive, inclusive approach that involves others in key decisions.
- Training managers to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace new management styles can help organizations stay competitive as the business world evolves.
- Businesses are using scenario-based development programs to give managers actionable experience as part of training.
With several years of upheaval in the business world, strong management is important for organizations to stay competitive. As a result, the need for constructive manager training has become crucial in order to equip them with the necessary knowledge and tools to succeed.
“The role of managers has changed,” says Charlotte Schaller, partner and head of Aon Assessment Solutions UK. “Besides the changes of the last few years, there’s also a huge emphasis now on employee wellbeing and the link to productivity, which has a massive impact on the role the manager plays in supporting their team through these times. Getting the balance between being productive, being caring and setting targets is very hard.”
One of the best ways to ensure that managers are prepared for today’s challenges is effective training — or retraining, as the case may be.
The changing role of the manager serves to complicate the already-demanding directive to hire, train and retain capable workers in an uncertain job market. It’s essential for manager training to empower managers to embrace change and continually update their skills and knowledge to stay competitive.
“You can’t just assume that your most experienced person is going to be your best manager anymore,” says Schaller. “They might be incredible at their job, but now it’s about helping others be incredible at their job.”
The Changing Nature of Management
Management styles have largely shifted from solely focusing on directing employees to now engaging, instructing and unifying colleagues.
“Today’s successful managers and successful leaders are involving others in key decisions,” says Schaller. “Managers are moving from an exclusive, ‘I know the answers’ to a more inclusive ‘How can we all do this together?’ mindset.”
As managers work to bring their teams together, they open up new opportunities to facilitate growth and professional development.
“Managers now are trying more to challenge people,” Schaller explains. “It’s not just about problem solving issues for now. It’s about looking ahead and challenging people to discover new and better ways to do things.”
Managing the Contemporary Workforce
Many businesses’ embrace of hybrid work environments demonstrates a lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the pandemic presented many workplace challenges, it also provided a new framework for management.
“During the pandemic, managers were more empowered to ask people how they were coping and what was happening in their lives,” Schaller says. “That doesn’t disappear now. Managers should consider why someone’s working for you, what they’ve done in order to get to work that day and what’s going to happen when they put their pen down at the end of the day.”
Now that managers contend with team members on screens as well as in person, flexibility and the willingness to adapt to new circumstances are increasingly vital in the workplace. Sometimes, this simply means taking extra steps to be prepared. “Having all that technology in place so that it doesn’t ruin a meeting and you’re not spending hours trying to set things up can make a big difference,” says Schaller.
Identifying Managers and Securing Talent
In addition to reskilling and upskilling existing employees, leaders can rethink their recruitment practices and make use of new technologies when adding managers to their teams.
Offering an appealing, comprehensive combination of benefits and rewards is increasingly critical in recruiting and retaining managerial talent. “The employee value proposition is key for retention,” Schaller says. “That’s not just the pay and benefits now. It’s also the company culture. In what direction are we heading and who is leading us forward? How do we work collaboratively to achieve outcomes and what is the environment in which we work?”
Leaders can also use AI and other digital solutions to acquire and retain talented managers. “Using technology to attract a wider pool of candidates and to help select candidates saves time, but it also puts some science behind the process,” Schaller says. “It removes the bias that maybe a human person would have when they’re just going through a standard recruitment process. It improves diversity because you don’t necessarily focus on past experience or educational background — you’ve really done a lot of the analysis upfront.”
Manager Training: Setting Managers Up for Success
Though there is no single approach to training effective managers, best practices are rising to the surface as more businesses develop their management teams.
“Many manager trainings are scenario-based, where you ask people, ‘What would you do in this situation?’ That can be using a virtual platform or through a role play, or even an in-person assessment or development center,” says Schaller. “Organizations are putting their managers through development programs where they then come away with some tips and direction to learning.”
Given the increase in hybrid work environments, companies must weigh the merits of having manager training take place in person or virtually. According to Schaller, the setting is secondary to the substance of the training.
“There’s no right or wrong answer to whether a company should host their development centers virtually or in person. It’s obviously cost-saving if you do them virtually. And it can be a very engaging process still if you set it up in a virtual way. But mostly it’s about what behaviors that we’re tapping into and being really clear on what ‘good’ looks like,” says Schaller.
Furthermore, exercises should go beyond setting expectations in order to give managers actionable experience.
“The exercises need to be real,” explains Schaller. “Managers will likely be expected to do some form of personality questionnaire, but can also greatly benefit from a realistic job preview-type exercise — something they’re going to actually be doing day-to-day. You need to give your managers the insight on how to develop their teams. There’s a lot riding on them to be able to manage how others learn and grow.”
To find out more about Aon’s insights on human capital, click here.