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Developing Management


Management is distinguished as the level of supervision between the rank-and-file employees and organizational leaders. Residing between effective leadership and efficient employees, effective managers are critical to organizational success.

Different paths to becoming a manager exist—either through the ranks or through outside accomplishments. Managers must have certain knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to be able to achieve organizational goals and engage employees.

Lacking these KSAs, managers will need basic or advanced training, depending on their place within an organization. The training of managers should be an ongoing process, even as managers become proficient at basic levels of business acumen. All managers should be concerned with management development—in terms of both their own and their subordinates' advancement.

What Is Management Development?

Management development is the systematic process of creating effective managers. Managers' critical function is to translate leadership and shareholder objectives (or create them on their own when they do not come from above) into legal and effective actions to achieve those objectives. In doing so, managers act as facilitators and problem-solvers.

Managers may receive inspiration and direction from leaders. Yet managers are charged with the application of aspirational and strategic principles to the day-to-day process of getting the job done, done right and done efficiently.

Management development is simultaneously rigorous, academic and practical. An organization's approach to management development should include a variety of techniques to constantly build on a manager's existing KSAs.

Examples of major areas in which managers should be competent are:

Usually, managers can benefit greatly from formal training in one or more of these foundational areas.

Often, managers come out of the rank-and-file, having distinguished themselves in individual contributor roles in the organization. Others come into an organization already at a management level, with college degrees in business administration or a management-level job with a previous employer. Occasionally, a manager demonstrates more than just managerial competency and becomes an organizational leader. Management development is concerned with enabling managers from any level to become more effective managers and to advance within organizations.


Developing the Mindset and Skillset to Be a New Manager

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Viewpoint: What Great Remote Managers Do Differently

Importance of Management Development

Although managers can and do develop on their own, the process can be greatly facilitated by the systematic application of tools, methods and theories under the direction of other managers and HR professionals. Because organizational leaders must thoroughly understand the organizations they lead, it makes good sense for organizations to attempt to grow leaders in their own backyards. Growing leaders from within is an increasingly prevalent staffing alternative.

A formalized approach to management development is worth the effort because well-trained managers can play a key role in the organization's success and future development by, for example, allowing them to do the following:

  • Have a major impact on employee performance and morale.
  • Revitalize unmotivated employees and thereby avoid the disruption and costs of firing and rehiring.
  • Act as translators between levels and groups of employees and with other organizations.

Emerging trends in business will allow experienced and new managers to have even more influence within their organizations include:

  • Globalization is increasingly making the business world more complex.
  • Baby Boomers are retiring from the workplace.
  • There is an accelerated business cycle, with businesses perceived as failing or succeeding on a faster pace than previously recognized.
  • Flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly popular and widespread.

Common Issues in Management Development

Organizations must take into account many issues in creating and implementing a management development strategy. Some typical matters include the following:

  • Many managers are promoted into managerial roles because they exhibit strong performance as individual contributors. That shift can be a difficult one, however, and many new managers flounder. Too often organizations provide no formal development program for their new managers and no "refresher" training for existing managers or high-potential employees.
  • Out of a desire to relate to subordinate employees, a new manager—particularly one promoted from within—may be timid about enforcing company policy or striving to meet established objectives. See What tips can we offer new managers who are now supervising their former peers?
  • Equally problematic, a manager may exhibit an air of arrogance: "There is a new sheriff in town, and I'm going to show you what's what." Great managers do not just happen; they need to be nurtured. It makes common sense that the best employees are the first ones to leave when subjected to an incompetent or abusive manager.
  • Managers are not the only ones with issues. Organizations need to make sure that they walk their talk. For example, an organization that verbally emphasizes teamwork but then promotes only lone wolves is sending a mixed message that will result in mixed outcomes and loss of valuable employees at every level.

See New Manager Tips for Success.

Management Development Challenges

An underlying challenge at most organizations is the sheer lack of management development and employee development. In this regard, even minimal efforts by HR professionals in the area of management and staff development can make a big difference. Something is better than nothing.

Managers may believe that they lack what they need to get the job done: for example, enough staff, enough budget, or enough understanding or vision by upper management. Yet managers must often make do with what is available. Just as with lower-level employees, it may be helpful for senior managers and HR professionals to be careful not to set expectations too low.

However, encountering resistance from managers when providing management development support is not uncommon. Managers may hesitate to admit to weaknesses they could overcome through additional training. This is particularly true when the development effort is prompted by an event such as a charge of harassment against the manager, an employee lawsuit, a union organizing effort or accumulated complaints about the manager's behavior.

While an organization may perceive its efforts to develop a particular manager to be a generous benefit (in lieu of termination), the manager may view these efforts as punishment or penance. That view undermines the efficacy of the organization's efforts.

Systematic, ongoing efforts to develop all managers deliver across-the-board value and reduce perceptions that a particular manager is being singled out. One of the greatest impediments to managerial success can be the individual manager's own psychological baggage. Some managers may be perceived by their subordinates or superiors as bullying, passive-aggressive, angry, mean, autocratic, narcissistic, abusive, impotent, timid, cowardly or stupid. Few managers are widely perceived as being "excellent" without a negative attribute being appended.

Organizations can address individual managers' issues through employee assistance programs (EAPs), management development programs and work/life balance programs. The most promising managers recognize their own deficiencies and address them in their own way, before a crisis prompts management development outside the organization's norm.

Creating a Management Development Strategy

Establishing a strong management development program requires assessment and planning. Some of the key tasks in designing and implementing a management development strategy include the following:

  • Assess the status quo to determine managers' existing skill levels.
  • Analyze and estimate management development needs in terms of the number of managers and critical competencies needed in the future.
  • Evaluate proposed approaches to management development vis-à-vis alignment with the organization's strategic plan.
  • Identify training opportunities and participants.
  • Create development plans for individual managers.
  • Tie program objectives to manager interests as well as company needs.
  • Provide honest guidance about future opportunities to individual supervisors and managers.

Employers should review and revise management development plans as necessary based on evaluation of program outcomes. See 360 Degree Manager Effectiveness Performance Evaluation.

Content of Management Development Programs

Regardless of whether promoted from below or brought in laterally, managers usually require ongoing training to be successful at their jobs in the long term. A lack of business acumen across all levels leads to poor decision-making and bad communications.

Managers must have KSAs in many areas. Abilities are innate to the manager or were already present upon becoming a manager. Likewise, every manager brings certain knowledge and skills. The difference is that knowledge and skills can be taught. Organizational training is both knowledge-based and skills-based.

Managers need a broad variety of skills in leadership and supervision, communication, general business and technology. They need a solid understanding of the industry in which they operate and the structure and functions of the organization. They need to be familiar and comfortable with finance, marketing and operations regardless of their particular area of expertise. And they need to clearly understand the organization's culture, philosophies, policies and procedures. See SHRM's sample training presentations on a variety of subjects.

Knowledge training

To be effective, managers need to understand much information and numerous concepts. Knowledge training for managers can focus on internal matters such as:

  • The company's business model and how it makes money.
  • Company-specific processes and product offerings.
  • Supply chain elements, application of products, markets and economic cycles.
  • Revenues, expenses, profits, customers and growth.
  • Accounting, finance, marketing/sales, strategy, and the analysis and interpretation of financial statements.
  • Internal ethics codes (see, e.g., SHRM Code of Ethics).

Knowledge training for managers can also relate to external matters such as:

Skills training

As with management knowledge, management skills can be taught. Employers can teach managers new skills in many areas to help them achieve strategic objectives:

Skills training is best accomplished through proactive engagement with subordinates daily. These skills include:

Careers in Management Development

Management development should be an important part of every HR generalist's job. Executive coaches, industrial psychologists and EAP professionals also perform management development. Management development is an extremely broad field in which many functional areas interact, although relatively few jobs may be devoted exclusively to management development.

Occupations that may focus on the creation or implementation of management development programs include:

See L&D Pros Share Best Practices for Early Career Training.