HR Management & Compliance

10 Ways HR Can Help First-Time Managers Succeed

In industries like manufacturing, engineering and construction, the skills gap has meant that those in nonsupervisory positions have had to move into supervisory roles. Promoting internally is a great way to build up your company, but what happens when an employee without any management experience moves into a supervisory position?

If a new manager struggles, their entire team will struggle too. According to Gallup research, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. In other words, a bad manager equals low employee engagement, while a good one equals high engagement.

So what can HR departments and managers do to help first-time managers succeed?

Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time manager. No longer a specialist using particular skills with their team of colleagues, they’re now overseeing a team and are responsible for a much wider scope of activities. Conflict resolution, hiring, employee professional development and recognition are just a few of their new responsibilities.

The skills it takes to be an excellent individual producer are not the same skills it takes to be an excellent manager. It is foolish to think a first-time manager will be able to adjust to his or her new responsibilities and expectations without support.

That’s why the role of HR is critical in easing the transition into a supervisory position. Consider promoting someone from a nonsupervisory role into a supervisory role almost like hiring a new employee: they need to be reintroduced to their role and how it functions in your company.

Make Sure Managers Understand Their Purpose

Employees who don’t supervise others have a narrow scope in their work: they need to do their job, and rely on their boss for help and direction.

New managers may not be prepared for the fundamental shift in their purpose to one with a broader scope. Now, they are responsible for the people under them, while still accountable for their own work and to their own boss. As such, they need to:

1. Provide guidance and help to their team. This requires establishing communication methods, whether through regular team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and/or ad-hoc meetings as issues arise. Therefore, HR should stress the importance of regular communications and prepare first-time managers on how to run meetings.

2. Develop trust with team members. Managers need to establish and maintain healthy relationships with their team members. They need to support their employees’ career aspirations and support them to meet their goals. HR should encourage new managers to make developing trust with their team a priority from day one.

3. Focus on the bigger picture. A nonsupervisory employee knows all the details of his or her work, but a manager can’t possibly keep track of all the details of each project his or her team is working on. In trying to, a manager runs the risk of becoming a micromanager, which benefits no one. HR and the new manager’s supervisor should ensure he or she understands what the new role entails, and how to shift to thinking like a manager.

Additionally, HR should:

4. Be clear about the expectations of managers. How often are managers expected to conduct performance reviews? What kinds of performance reviews work best for their teams? What decisions can they take, and what requires executive approval? How often and to what degree of detail does senior management want to be briefed on what projects the manager is overseeing? New managers should know the answers to these questions.

5. Encourage new managers to admit they don’t know it all. New managers, eager to live up to their new responsibilities, may be reluctant to seek out help and advice. HR can make it clear that a promotion doesn’t mean an expectation the new manager will know everything.

Give New Managers More Support

After a promotion, it is common for new managers to find their boss no longer gives them as much attention and support as they received in their old position. This is a devastating mistake. New managers need more support, not less. It is therefore important to:

6. Provide more support through one-on-one meetings. New managers undertake some big responsibilities which are entirely new to them. As they acclimatize to the role, they need more one-on-one time with their own boss.

7. Set up new managers with mentors. With mentors other than their immediate supervisor, new managers have other sounding boards to navigate the new world of management. This is particularly critical if there are certain issues a manager feels they can’t discuss with their immediate supervisor, for either personal or political reasons.

8. Offer them professional development opportunities. First-time managers need ongoing professional development to help them grow. In particular, they may need professional development to improve their “soft” skills, such as negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication.

Prepare Them for the Tough Stuff

It’s no small matter to be responsible for a team’s well-being. HR should make sure new managers are ready for the thornier employee issues that can arise. Prepare new managers to:

9. Ensure they can identify and manage employee issues. Managers need to be able to handle a wide variety of employee issues ranging from burnout or conflict among team members to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. HR can help equip managers for these and other issues by providing resources and role-playing through various scenarios.

10. Understand what requires HR consultation. New managers need to understand that hiring, discipline, termination, employee leave, workers’ compensation, and employee complaints (such as harassment or discrimination) require HR input before taking action.

Ultimately, first-time managers need what every employee needs to succeed: a clear understanding of the expectations of their role, the support of their supervisor, ongoing professional development, and an understanding of when to turn to HR for extra support.

But as they adjust to their new role, they just may need these things more than other employees. Don’t neglect your first-time managers as they transition into management. Give them some extra attention, and you’ll see how much more quickly they become confident and capable managers.

Chris Lennon is Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. Chris is an active participant in the talent management community bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like Talent Management magazine, CLO magazine, New Talent Times, TLNT and HR Bartender.

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