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New Managers - why are you letting them sink or swim?

September 12, 2015

This is a topic I like to talk about A LOT!!!  So many businesses get this wrong and it shouldn’t be that hard!


I’ve worked in a number of industries and sectors in my time and I’ve found that nearly always people are promoted to management positions on their technical skills (sometimes a good thing) but then often not given the skills to actually be able to manage the people (always a bad thing). Why, why, why?


As  HR professionals  we’re then often called in at some future point (usually not very far in the future) because someone complains about the way a manager dealt with a situation or feels the manager has harassed them or isn’t supportive or doesn’t understand their situation … and the list just goes on.  There may  also be the manager asking advice on all things people related or wanting support to deal with a situation such as performance management,  poor conduct or managing workplace conflict and doesn’t know where to start.


Yes, the HR role is to assist and support Managers but it isn’t our only role. We’re also supporting the business in other ways both strategically and operationally so it can be a drain on everyone and the businesses finances if HR has to step in all the time. Businesses need to be smarter about the way they  promote and recruit people into

management positions. How can HR professionals help with this?

  1. You have to let go of the belief that the only people suitable for positions in your industry or sector come from within it already. Many Managers believe this but sadly so do many HR professionals. If we want continuous improvement and innovation and solution focused thinking then we should start with the innovation ourselves and think outside the box when it comes to candidates. People can learn your industry – at a management level the job should be more about managing the people than being the technical expert.

  2. If possible, HR needs to be part of the recruitment or at the very least the short listing process, so Managers don’t recruit in their own likeness, there is more impartiality in the panel and legal and appropriate questions that will add meaning to the process are asked.

  3. Before the selection process commences ascertain what it is the manager is looking for in a candidate and determine if this is realistic (we would all love to hire the most experienced person with the best qualifications for the lowest amount of money but it isn’t very realistic is it?) What if that person doesn’t exist – where to next, who will be the next best fit?

As an organisation what should we be doing if our best candidate is new to managing people? In terms of costs it’s obviously in the best interest of the organisation to train them to avoid the unnecessary expense of calling in HR (especially if your business is small and doesn’t have an HR section – but that’s a whole other blog) every time there is an issue, calling on other manager’s for assistance, possibly having to use a counselling service if relationships in the workplace break down or even having to deal with worker’s compensation claims. The business will just run better if you give people the skills they need to manage your number one asset – your staff.


Now I say ‘obviously’ but herein lies the problem – apparently it isn’t and so many organisations waste so much money by not giving their managers these skills. I think every manager should at least be trained in the following upon commencing in a new role –

  • Communication skills including –

    • The knowledge to know when to listen and when to speak

    • The ability to recognise achievements and do something about it

    • The ability to teach others your technical skills (knowledge should not be seen as power) and therefore delegating

    • The ability to have difficult conversations

  • Conflict resolution skills

  • Being visible and making time for employees – sometimes called managing by walking around – everyone is busy and everyone has deadlines but giving a little of your time now could save you a whole lot of time later. You will learn so much about your staff, the culture and the business in general by doing this and they will see you and hopefully will chat to you about issues.

There are really no excuses for businesses not to invest in their new managers – after all they have taken the time to recruit or promote them to assist in the management of the business – you do your business and your staff an absolute disservice by not skilling them up. It may not happen straight away but eventually you will lose them or staff they are ‘managing’ and a little bit of your reputation will go with them.


So please take the time and invest in your new people managers – they really want to succeed and you need them!

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