How do you prepare employees to become great managers?

How do you prepare employees to become great managers?

Helping organisations prepare the next generation of leaders and managers

In many organisations, and for many employees, moving up is the only career progression option available. This old-fashioned view of career development can quickly become a bottleneck, as there are always more aspiring managers than there are management positions available. Which can leave staff frustrated and unsure of where to go next.

From a business point of view, this is a clear risk. Limited career development options are one of the main reasons staff leave their current roles, and a talent drain can have significant impacts on a company’s bottom line.

That’s why our client, King’s College London (KCL), contacted Let’s Talk Talent (LTT) – to contribute to increasing retention rates by empowering the next generation of leaders.

How did we do just that? This was our approach.

Management as the only career development option

Just like many big, complex organisations, KCL has a large pool of aspiring managers. This particular audience was made up of diverse individuals, with different career goals.

Some were looking to propel their career forward and settled on management as the obvious choice. Others clearly wanted to lead their teams, but didn’t know how to get there. Many had unsuccessfully applied for a management position and, without much developmental feedback, were a little… discombobulated.

The result? A large number of stagnating employees waiting for guidance on which steps to take to reach their career goals. This was a concern for KCL, as the organisation did not want to risk talented people becoming disengaged or, worse, leaving the organisation altogether.

Empowering employees to take charge of their careers

LTT quickly got stuck in. We asked ourselves: “how can we help the business retain their employees and, more importantly, empower their staff to successfully navigate their career within the organisation?”

Whilst there is a role to play by the line manager and organisation, careers belong to the individual. In complex organisations, empowering employees to seek out, navigate, and drive their own careers means each person can have their own unique path whilst feeling supported. The organisation and individual both win,” says Catherine Wilson, Senior Consultant at Let’s Talk Talent.

To achieve this, we had to start at the beginning: we needed to reset the way employees think about their careers. We wanted to clearly communicate to individuals that they were in control of their own career path, and that they could indeed take action to propel their career forward.

To do this, we were going to implement a two-phased approach.

For the first phase, we wanted to help aspiring managers realise there was a wide range of options available to them. As reaching a team leader position had been the main focus of so many people’s development plan for so long, we wanted everyone to pause for a moment. We needed aspiring managers to ask themselves whether a management role was the right move, considering their skill set and ambitions, or whether they would thrive by taking up a different challenge.

The second phase involved providing employees with tangible tools and guidance that would empower them to take positive strides to unlock their full potential.

Training the next generation of managers

LTT designed the Aspiring Manager Series: a concentrated programme consisting of psychometric tests, live coaching sessions, and training modules.

The purpose of the intervention was to quickly help employees assess the skills needed to become managers, and create a clear development plan that would get them there. We knew a short intervention was the way to go, rather than spreading the initiative out over several months.

We began by conducting personality assessments to benchmark people’s strengths, management styles, and personal drivers. This was followed by four training modules covering the skills and behaviours needed to be a great manager, and showing participants how to develop the required experience and network. Training was spread over a period of five-weeks to optimise information retention while maintaining momentum.

Topics covered included:

  • Building self-awareness and confidence
  • Career mapping
  • Creating meaningful connections and network building
  • Career conversations with managers
  • Basic management skills

As mentioned by one of the participants to the programme: “It was great to recognise that some of the traits I already have could become management traits.

What our approach taught us on preparing aspiring managers

Attendance and participation in the programme were high, which told us one thing: aspiring managers at KCL were keen to develop the skills needed to step up to the next level of their careers.

When presented with more information about the manager role and the wealth of other development opportunities available within the organisation, a few redirected their sights. They went on to choose different progression options more suited to their skill set, ambitions and drivers.​​

These options included moving sideways, looking for specialist roles, being part of a different team, or even taking on different projects with added responsibilities in order to develop a particular skill.

While a few chose different career paths, aspiring managers who did set their sights on a managerial position were given the tools needed to hone the skills and knowledge required of a team leader. In short, they could prepare themselves for the challenge ahead and get ready to confidently grab the next opportunity that would open up.

But one key goal was achieved for KCL: whatever their objectives, from leadership to technical experts, all participants felt empowered to take control of their own careers.

Presenting your people with a world of possibilities

It’s crucial that both organisations and employees remember that there is a world of career development possibilities out there, and linear promotions aren’t the only route. It’s up to you to show your people everything available to them, and present them with the exposure and experience that will allow them to unlock their full potential.

Most of us want to feel stretched or challenged, and to know that our contribution makes a difference to the business. This can be done in many ways other than leading a team. “It’s about opening your people’s minds so they can make informed decisions, rather than telling them what they should do,” says Jo Taylor, MD at Let’s Talk Talent.

We have a range of resources to help you do this, including our downloadable career planning whitepaper, our Coach on Demand career coaching service, as well as our deck of career coaching cards.

It’s also worth noting that, in our opinion, great leaders aren’t made, they are born. So when you find one within your organisation, make sure you give them the right tools and resources to support them along their leadership journey.

Managers are often expected to learn how to lead on the job, which can have disastrous impacts on both the employee and their team. Here, follow King’s College London’s guidance: make sure you nurture your current and future managers, and give them everything they need to succeed in their roles.

If you’d like some help developing a leadership and management portfolio for your aspiring managers, don’t hesitate to book a call with us. Alternatively, have a look at our Management Development service page.

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