Manager Training Remains Critical in Retaining Great Talent

Today’s post comes to us from The Workforce Institute advisory board member Dennis Miller, AVP of human resources and benefits administration at The Claremont Colleges, and it is a follow-up to The Workforce Institute Weigh-In for August 2022, checking in our annual Workplace Predictions.

At the start of 2022, my colleagues and I from The Workforce Institute advisory board published our annual set of Workplace Predictions. Among the prevailing trends we forecast was this one: Manager training — including emotional support — and mentorship programs will become critical in the fight to retain great talent.

With organizations across industries still reeling from the Great Resignation, and millions of people still leaving their jobs each month, employers are scrambling for effective ways to attract or keep their talented performers. Perhaps even more alarming, our recent research on employees who left during the pandemic predicted managers may be next to leave en masse (two in five are contemplating leaving, according to the study).

It is clear that the underlying need for manager training continues to proliferate the work environment — and this need will continue for the foreseeable future. In fact, a quick scan of the internet informs us that many business leaders state that in-person and on-site human interactions are far more beneficial to employees when compared with interactions by using technology.

Therefore, these business leaders opine that working on-site is more beneficial when compared with working remotely (or a hybrid model). Indeed, they are making organizational decisions about remote and/or hybrid work arrangements based on their informed opinions.

However, what seems to be missing from this discussion is the necessity to provide managers with additional training specific to managing and leading remote and/or hybrid workers. Filling this gap in managerial training is pivotal to the discussion about subsequent comparisons on the effectiveness of different models (on-site and in person vs. remote via digital tools) related to employee interactions.

One great example can be seen with the managerial method of “Management by Walking Around,” or MBWA for short. MBWA has been used by many people leaders during the past several decades, with a certain level of success for those who have mastered this method.

However, MBWA will not be effective for remote workers, for obvious reasons. And, in the absence of creating a replacement method for remote and/or hybrid workers, this gap will likely result in one of three outcomes: 1) leave managers guessing regarding how to lead their teams; 2) require managers to develop their own managerial method to fill this gap; or 3) simply follow the opinion of their business leaders, and, therefore, require employees to be physically on-site to achieve what is believed to be more effective levels of employee interactions.

As such, as we continue down the path toward “normalizing” in our post-pandemic environment, where different management models continue to emerge for accomplishing work remotely, one essential element for business success is to ensure managers have the most current training and development to lead employees in this different environment.

Earlier this year, I read an article by Dr. Joanne Disch, RN, FAAN, and my fellow advisory board member, Nanne Finis, MS, RN, about research they conducted related to nursing productivity. The authors walk through important research, and, when considering employee productivity, it is evident the contents of their document can apply across multiple market segments.

One of their statements opines that, “Solutions will not come from improving the practices of the last 50 years, but from gaining new insights from stakeholders of what might work better in the current environment.” I believe this statement applies to many organizations, and certainly applies to management and leadership training.

As the old saying goes: Employees don’t leave their companies, they leave their managers. Success for businesses in a post-pandemic, hybrid-work world begins with better training of people leaders.