Moving from a nonmanagerial role to management is not only a challenge for some employees—it causes problems for virtually all employees, says Jason Carney, director of human resources at WorkSmart Systems Inc., a professional employer organization in Indianapolis.
In many cases, new managers have personal relationships with their subordinates from their days together as nonmanagerial employees, and suddenly supervising their peers can cause conflicts. Meanwhile, other employees don’t receive the proper training for effective management. These employees are often promoted because of their technical proficiencies; however, they do not always have the management skills to match.
“There’s this assumption that practitioners can be great managers because they’re great practitioners,” Carney says. “A lot of companies have made that fatal flaw where they pick their top practitioners and move them into management, but it’s often not a good model.”
For an employer to develop an effective management staff, it should begin identifying employees with managerial potential early on and train and develop those skills now, Carney says. Refining management expertise takes time, and these employees should be put into situations that allow them to begin honing these skills.
For example, an employer should consider assigning future managerial employees to special projects that allow them to take the lead, Carney says. This gives those employees the chance to see the dynamics accompanied with those leadership roles, and when it is time to move into management, they are better prepared and less likely to fail.
“Too many times these decisions are made when someone leaves, and you have a week to figure it out,” Carney says. “An employer needs to have a true succession plan in place in order to groom people in advance.”
When identifying employees who have managerial potential, employers should look for those with patience and empathy as well as strong time-management skills, Carney says. Managing employees adds a another level of responsibilities, and they should be ready to adapt to their new priorities.
“Hands down – poor time-management skills is one of the biggest areas new managers fail in because they feel they need to continue doing their practitioner jobs, but now you have a team of 10 people to manage, and that takes an enormous amount of time.”
While certain employees are not cut out for management, it doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t other avenues of growth. Rather than only offering career growth through management, Carney recommends that employers develop dual paths, meaning one leads to management while the other leads to a senior technical role with equal pay. By offering two paths, employees are also more likely to turn down management roles when they are only interested in the typical salary increase that comes with these positions.
“When you have dual career paths, there are opportunities for people to be in lead roles without being in true management roles where there’s a good chance they’ll crash and burn,” Carney says. “They don’t necessarily don’t want to be the manager but are afraid to say that because it would cost them a $20,000 raise. Without there being a huge monetary impact, it allows employees to take themselves out of consideration, and it helps employers identify the right people.”