The Management Crisis

Quality management is paramount to the success of any organization. With large effects on productivity, employee engagement, turnover, and even the health of your workforce, bad managers can sink even the best executive strategies.

Unfortunately, good managers are difficult to find. Gallup estimates that only about one in 10 people possesses the five qualities of a highly talented manager, which include motivating, assertiveness, accountability, relationship management, and decision making. In the same study, Gallup found that about 80 percent of managers are poor fits for their positions. This means that even when organizations are effective in identifying managerial talent, its scarcity still prevents them from consistently replacing inadequate midlevel leaders.

The Root Cause

It is rarely the fault of managers if they are unfit for the role. More often, a lack of training is to blame.

Most people only reach the managerial level after succeeding as an individual contributor, but the skills they develop as individual contributors often have very little to do with successful management. Take, for example, a sales manager who is promoted for being the number one seller at her organization.

With the promotion, the sales manager’s responsibilities change completely. She no longer does what she is good at: going on calls, presenting to clients, and making deals. Instead, the manager is responsible for ensuring that her team performs these duties effectively. The manager also assumes other responsibilities that have nothing to do with her background: hiring and firing, evaluating performance, managing reports’ schedules and leave time, and training.

However, many organizations unfairly expect new managers to pick up these new skills without any training.

Making Good Managers

HR professionals should acknowledge that most managers need to grow into their jobs, and put measures in place to facilitate that growth. A good place to begin is setting clear expectations for managers before promoting or hiring them. Doing so will show employees how moving to the managerial level will change their day-to-day activities.

Next, HR professionals should ensure that their organization has a learning program in place that helps managers develop important leadership skills such as motivating direct reports or delegating work. In particular, managerial training programs should feature experiential learning, which may include action learning, on-the-job learning, serious games, or simulations. The report Experiential Learning for Leaders, by ATD Research, notes that high-performing companies use these tools for frontline leader and manager development far more often than lower-performing firms.

Finally, HR professionals can hasten the development of their future managers by measuring the effectiveness of leadership training or development programs. Choosing a metric to influence, designing a training program around it, measuring results, and then adjusting the design can help HR professionals get the best results from these programs.

About the Author 

Alex Mooalex-moorere is the research coordinator for the Association for Talent Development. He writes content for the research department, manages its Twitter account (@atdresearch), and assists with data collection and analysis.Alex began his career with ATD as a member of the Customer Care team. Prior to working at ATD, he completed a postgraduate internship with FedBid in Vienna, Virginia. Alex graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in English.