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The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp
Stacey Nordwall

Stacey Nordwall

Former People Program Lead, Leadership and Learning, Culture Amp

Promoting one of your best and brightest to manager is a huge win.

You’ve evaluated them and found they exceed expectations as an individual contributor, and they’re the kind of person you’re confident will take good care of their direct reports. But managing people is much different than being technically proficient in a position  – and it requires more than learning and delivering on technical skills. 

Research has shown that 60% of new managers underperform or fail in their first two years. This could be due to the fact that 58% of managers don’t receive any manager training. They are also often unprepared for the emotional and social shifts that can impact their relationship with their colleagues. 

New manager training can help managers adapt to their new position within the company, as well as develop the unique skills needed to manage a team. So even though it might feel like you’ve done your job once they’ve finished their onboarding, we believe there’s more to do before you push your baby bird out of the nest.

How new manager training creates company-wide success

At Culture Amp, we’ve committed to training our managers for a number of reasons: to further develop each new leader, to help them create good team experiences, and to equip them with the tools to help their direct reports grow. 

1. Development opportunities for individual managers

One of the ways that we help managers grow is by creating manager cohorts. The colleagues within these cohorts act as a support group for new managers who can ask for advice, tips, and tricks.

Manager cohorts also allow people in the same position to learn the same tools and use the same language. This makes it easier for managers to learn from one another and for employees to have a consistent experience. 

“Peer mentorship can be a great, simple touch-point to make sure we stay well connected as mentors within Culture Amp,” says Kealan Harman, a Sales Lead at Culture Amp. “It is an opportunity to create a safe-space where we can all talk through situations, hurdles, and successes. Managing a remote team, I also see it as a benefit in opening communication between different offices.”

We also rely on repetition. It rarely happens that someone attends one training and then is able to use the skills, develop new or improved habits, and change their behaviors. Consistent, formal training allows managers to grow skills over time.

2. Influencing their team’s experience

People often get promoted to manager because they are really skilled at their function, but aren’t properly trained on how to manage people. Overseeing a team requires a skill set beyond the scope of a manager’s function.  It involves taking on the responsibility for employee engagement, performance, wellbeing, and development of direct reports. Performing well as an individual contributor likely won’t help them with these new responsibilities, which can result in a knock to the new manager’s confidence and impact on their own performance.

“It was both exciting and high pressure to have the opportunity to hire new Campers and define what their first experience was like at Culture Amp,” said Julianna Kapjian-Pitt, Culture Amp’s Customer Experience Lead. “As a new manager, starting with a blank slate with my mentees allowed us to approach the mentor-mentee relationship with a shared growth-mindset and set all of us up for a long-lasting partnership.”

To help Juliana empower the new managers in her team, we gave them tools that help new managers efficiently transition. We’ve found that a focused, organized manager can directly impact employee engagement, so providing clarity and guidance allows team members to effectively prioritize and be productive. And when employees are working toward clear goals they find more meaning in their work. 

3. Development of direct reports

One of the greatest benefits in providing coaching training to managers is that they can then help other employees become better thinkers. They can encourage them to learn and solve problems themselves, stretch themselves, and grow their skills. All of this connects them to new experiences and opportunities. 

If you are training managers to be better coaches and communicators, it helps their direct reports feel a sense of purpose. The people they manage can better connect what they are doing to the mission of the company, which is a powerful motivator to grow and be engaged.

Types of training that could be helpful for new managers

At Culture Amp, we partner with LifeLabs to run their Manager CORE series, which helps our managers grow into great people leaders. The benefit of working with LifeLabs for our manager training is that they have done the research to know the practical skills and tools managers can use to produce the biggest impact, and they do it in an engaging way.

The training programs include four key areas of growth for new managers.

Effective 1-on-1 meetings: New managers are now on the other side of the table for 1-on-1 meetings. These meetings can be used for everything from helping employees set personal goals to performance reviews. Training on how to run 1-on-1 meetings could involve how to prepare or how to communicate feedback effectively with direct reports. 

Productivity and organization: It’s much easier to manage your time when someone is telling you what to do from 9:00am to 5:00pm. But when new managers become the person setting the tasks, goals, and schedule, it can be daunting. Training could include how to set goals and track them, as well as how to adopt the mindset of an agile team.

Giving feedback to their staff: The first time a new manager has to meet with a low-performing employee, it might be difficult, especially if that person was a former peer. Training to help them give effective, constructive feedback can help both parties involved. 

Coaching their team: Managers who are good coaches focus on developing the people they work with as well as getting the job done. According to LifeLabs, this is a crucial skill of good leaders. If your managers are good at coaching their reports, “team members become more self-sufficient, learn how to help themselves and others resolve problems faster, and make more valuable contributions to the team.”

In addition to these focus areas, we have also seen that new managers need support with a number of soft skills that they might not have utilized in their former position. 

Soft skills 

Communication and storytelling: Communicating a team’s priorities and vision and then connecting the dots to the company’s mission through compelling storytelling are fundamental elements to providing clear direction and creating a sense of purpose for your team. The ability to communicate a vision and paint a picture for your team helps to keep them focused and engaged on what you are working together to achieve. 

Self-awareness / EQ: Getting to know yourself before you manage a team of people is important. It’s important to understand how your identity plays into relationships at work. Training that fosters self-awareness and cultural competence can help managers position themselves better within a team of diverse employees.

Resilience and wellbeing: New positions can mean a huge learning curve – for both your brain and your body. It can be exhausting, confusing, and take up a lot more time in your day. Training new managers on how to take care of their own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of their employees, is crucial. 

Consider evaluating how you’re currently handling new manager onboarding. One option to help them feel more supported from the beginning is a new manager handbook. This kind of tool would outline basic manager responsibilities and detail the expectations that you have of new managers. 

The handbook could also be used as a conversation starter for employees that you’re considering promoting to manager. When presenting the handbook to potential managers you can ask questions like, “Does this sound like a position you’d be interested in? Do you think you want to be a people manager?” And if you’re lucky and find people who feel like they’re able to take on the realistic expectations that you’ve shown them, training can be a great next step to get them prepped.

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