Why Front-Line Managers Need Better Training

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You've recently been promoted from Team Member at your local chain restaurant or retail store to Manager. Congratulations! You get a new set of responsibilities, a new title, and a pay bump. But what about further training for your new role?

What is a Front-Line Manager?

Front-line managers are the first or second level of managers at a company. They're the office managers, supervisors, and kitchen managers of the world. Front-line managers often start at companies as team members and, much of the time, they have no previous management experience.

Despite this, front-line managers are highly impactful employees. According to Harvard Business Review, they supervise up to 80% of the workforce. And they're the managers who work directly with customers, products, services, and staff. Unlike managers further up the organizational structure, the work that front-line leaders do directly impacts daily operations.

A manager of a restaurant

What Makes a Good Front-Line Manager?

With such a high level of responsibility, front-line managers require two distinct skill sets. First, they must have the technical abilities to work directly on the front lines of the business completing functional tasks. And second, front-line leaders must also have the strong interpersonal skills required of a manager.

Think about the manager at your local coffee shop. He or she must balance assessing the needs of the store, communicating those needs to team members, scheduling shifts, providing training and feedback, interacting with customers, organizing opening and closing duties, managing cash, and stepping in to making lattes when necessary. Whew. This is a large list of tasks that requires many different skills.

Are Front-Line Leaders Doing a Good Job?

The general consensus is that front-line managers are valuable. 77% of respondents to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services reported that front-line managers are important in helping their organization reach its business goals. Yet the same respondents rated the front-line leaders at their companies as minimally competent in key skills such as strategic thinking and organizational savvy.

Why do front-line leaders falter? Perhaps they were never given the tools to succeed. In fact, 71% percent of respondents to the Harvard Business Review survey said that front-line managers at their organizations received training only occasionally or infrequently. And the negative impact of this is clear. 79% of respondents believed that this lack of training negatively impacts their company.

A warehouse manager with employees

What's the Solution?

What this all adds up to is a major gap in business strategy. Companies recognize that front-line leaders are crucial to their organization's success, but they admit that these very same leaders are not given the necessary resources to excel. Front-line managers are expected to perform at a high level in a variety of tasks requiring a wide skill set, but they are not equipped with the necessary tools, negatively impacting organizational performance.

It's clear that front-line leaders need to receive more training, both with higher frequency and greater depth. Unfortunately, the average working American does not have the power to impact business decisions at major, or even small, companies. But front-line leaders can, and should, feel empowered to take control of their own development and training. They might request training from their supervisors or seek out relevant courses through various e-learning platforms such as Study.com.

Skills that front-line leaders might consider developing include leadership, mentoring, communication, motivating others, management, and interpersonal skills.

A coffee shop manager

The Future

Our hope is that companies become aware of this crucial skills gap and respond accordingly by investing in and expanding training for front-line leaders. In the meantime, front-line leaders are able to take advantage of the recent proliferation of online learning, as well as more traditional educational avenues, to upskill themselves. The result will be impactful: a wave of confident, effective front-line leaders able to contribute positively to the success of their organization.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
October 2017

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