The Smarter Startup

The ROI of Investing in New People Leaders

If you are a new manager, or if you plan on promoting an individual contributor to a management role, here are some core areas to offer training.

When it comes to developing future people leaders, one of the most widespread failures of so many organizations is not providing the proper training. Many people are selected for leadership roles because of their ability to perform a job well versus demonstrated people leadership skills. We see a lot of first time Founders and Leadership at startups. Given the lack of training and time to develop these skills, first time managers are often thrown to the wolves and left to navigate the newfound world of being a people leader on their own.

If you are a new manager, or if you plan on promoting an individual contributor to a management role, here are some core areas to offer training.

Interview and Sensitivity Training

There is a foundation of legal and cultural things to do and not do as a manager. Picture yourself sitting in an interview conducted by a newly appointed manager and you hear them say:

  • “Wow, you’ve accomplished so much! How old are you?”
  • “This is going to require a lot of long hours and travel. Are you planning on getting pregnant any time soon?”
  • “Happy Easter! We live in the same city. What church do you go to?”
  • “I love your experience at Google! How much are you currently making there?”

These questions came from a friendly place but they all are outside the bounds of what’s legal to ask during an interview. Your newly appointed manager had no idea that questions like these cannot be asked, and you assumed that they just knew. The best way to avoid a mistake like this is by providing employees with discrimination training, as well as training on how to conduct interviews. This will help them understand why these are illegal questions to ask, and so they’ll think twice before asking questions off-script again.

Employees value learning and development opportunities, so it’s no surprise that workers are more likely to stay at companies that invest in their continued education. I recommend encouraging training opportunities to all your employees. “Studies show that 70% of employees would be somewhat likely to leave their current job to work for an organization known for investing in employee development and learning and 34% of employees who left their previous job were motivated to do so by more career development opportunities.” Lorman Training Solutions. At minimum make sure your company is allocating enough time and money to give your managers the tools they need to effectively manage their number one resource, people.

Performance Feedback

Performance feedback is an essential part of doing a job better. Studies show that team members want to know how they are performing and truly value feedback from their manager.

According to Oak Engage, “Companies who conduct regular feedback experience 14.9% lower turnover rates. 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to 18% of employees with low engagement. 92% of people believe that constructive criticism is effective at improving performance.”

Too often, feedback is reserved for annual performance reviews which is often too little, too late. The best way to stay in tune with your employees and keep them satisfied with meaningful feedback, is to provide it more often. I like to recommend that people supervisors have a weekly 1 on 1 meeting with their direct reports. This time can be used to manage expectations, give feedback on their recent performance and make performance discussions conversational. People supervisors should solicit feedback from their employee, discuss performance and problem solve performance issues together. That way, employees are not surprised or blindsided when it comes time to do performance reviews and they hear they are underperforming in multiple categories for the first time.

Managing Under-Performance

Inevitably, a people supervisor will have an underperformer on their team. One of the most important responsibilities a people supervisor has is to communicate and document performance issues. Before a people supervisor is ready to fire an employee, they owe it to the employee to communicate what they expected from the employee and where the employee underperformed. This communication should start verbally. If the employee is unable to correct their performance, the people supervisor should provide more feedback, this time verbally and in writing.

When you are ready to terminate an employee, the first thing People Ops is going to ask is “Do you have any documentation of prior conversations or write ups?” Too often I hear from people supervisors who have hit their breaking point and want to fire an employee, but have no documentation to demonstrate the time and coaching they put into trying to turn the employee around. Don’t short cut this very critical step of managing up or out an employee. For tips on how to document performance issues, refer to Employee Documentation: Tips & Examples to Save Your Startup Money.

Effective manager training can inspire people supervisors, prepare them with good tools to be effective in their role, build confidence and at the same time minimize common pain points companies experience from poor management. If you’re not sure how to go about it or where to start, my colleague Ryan Robinson is spearheading an effort to make meaningful manager training accessible for our clients. Investing in your people and leadership can have great returns and will oftentimes improve the employee experience overall for your organization.