Training line managers means retaining staff

Alison Paton (Align People HR)

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by Alison Paton, Align People HR

LINE manager training and development has never been so important for employee retention as it is now. In today’s culture, talented employees have high expectations from employers and seek supportive work environments where empathy, support and compassion are the norm (Forbes, June 2021).  

Most people will have heard the saying “People don’t leave companies; they leave line managers.” The recent CIPD Working Lives Scotland report confirms that in the last year 33% of employees who resigned did so because of the leadership of senior management. 

How managers lead has the biggest impact on a company’s culture, the employee experience and ultimately motivation and engagement.  It is vital for companies to get this right.  

So how do companies get it right?  I have over 25 years’ experience within the HR and the learning and development field, and the most important area is not necessarily the most obvious.  As a business grows, the number of employees increases and the requirement for people management and leadership skills become increasingly important.  Therefore, it is vital to invest in your people managers.  Give them the opportunity to build much needed resilience, to identify their purpose and create their desired brand as leaders.  Resilient, forward-thinking leaders are the driving force in your business. Enabled leaders develop trusting relationships and influence others effectively.  Those who can communicate with impact, develop and motivate others to build high performing teams and a positive work culture. 

Line managers often get caught up in the delivery of day-to-day tasks, as opposed to thinking about the bigger picture which involves planning a development strategy for their direct reports, as well as thinking about ways develop personally.  They need to understand the importance of this for the greater good of the team.  Often when an employee is promoted into a line manager role, training happens over the short term and only after the demands of the new job have been met.  While short-term supervisory skills or management courses provide quick information and tips on people skills, the most beneficial deeper learning develops with professional direction and experience over time.  Sometimes, particularly in SME environments such development is overlooked due to lack of resources or continuing operational demands pulling the line manager in other directions.   

Five key behaviours identified by the CIPD and Affinity Health at Work for line managers to develop to ensure they are effective include being open, fair and consistent; handling conflict and people management issues; reliability; building and sustaining relationships; and supporting development.

Everyone knows a good line manager.  They’re on the ball, they know themselves and they know their team.  They are forward thinking, can see the bigger picture and have developed a resilience which gives them coping strategies in what is often a difficult position in a business.  If line managers show positive leadership, empathy, understanding, and are conscious of their team’s needs, employees will naturally be more engaged and motivated to do their best.

As Vice Chair of North Scotland & Isles CIPD, I benefit from many useful training and development insights. The CIPD Good Work Index 2022 states that approximately a quarter of managers do not receive the training they need. Line managers who haven’t been given the opportunity to develop their people management or self-awareness skills can inadvertently be contributing to staff turnover. It is therefore vital for employers to maximise the performance of their line managers and give them the managerial courage needed to successfully lead their teams, and to ensure that their organisation becomes an employer of choice.

Alison Paton is the founder of Align People HR and Vice Chair of North Scotland & Isles, CIPD

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