First-time manager training is an important part of any leadership development program, with the need for quality training essential to build a solid foundation to start managerial careers. Understanding the dynamics and preferences of these aspiring leaders is critical to developing successful training programs.
A Training Industry, Inc. study on first-time manager training focused on a range of best practices, covering program design to preferred delivery methods. We also asked participants to help us understand what topics areas should be covered during training, providing a roadmap of what to consider when creating your company’s first step in leadership development.
Qualities of Training
Customization was the clear message from research participants. Over 90 percent of respondents believe it is important for training to be based on challenges of real managers and customized to their own company’s internal competency framework. This customization provides first-time managers with relevant examples of what to expect in their new leadership role, as opposed to training that only provides general and non-specific information.
It was important to acknowledge that this training was part of a larger competency framework at the company and not an isolated event. With 55 percent of respondents rating this attribute as the most critical quality, it is clear that learners want to attend training events that are a relevant to their career path at the company.
Designing a training program with modules that build off one another in a comprehensive curriculum roadmap provides learners with a structure for their learning. It also allows learners to apply basic skills before moving on to more advanced skills.
Grounding training in research on trends and the challenges of real managers increases the relevance to learners, and many believe it results in increased learner engagement, retention and application on the job.
Top Five Attributes of Quality First-Time Manager Training
Aside from understanding what first-time managers want in training, it is also essential to gauge the importance of particular leadership topic areas. Given a list of 30 topics, respondents rated which were most important to them. Below are the five most important topics and the percentage of importance:
Coaching employees (64 percent)
Communication (written, verbal) (56 percent)
Giving performance evaluations and feedback (53 percent)
Managing and resolving conflict (49 percent)
Decision-making (44 percent)
Interestingly, all five of the top training topics are basic skills. Over 50 percent of respondents rated communication as most important; reinforcing the value of both verbal and written communication in leadership roles. Communication is the foundation to coaching, giving performance evaluations and feedback, and resolving conflict, which learners rated as other important topic areas. Allowing first-time managers the opportunity to develop these skills will essentially make them more comfortable, easing the transition into their new role.
Once you better understand how to design first-time manager training and what topics are important to learners, it’s vital to know how to deliver this information. The top delivery methods for first-time manager training are all live: face-to-face instructor-led training, coaching, live practice such as role-plays, and mentor networks. Only 35 percent of learners rated live virtual instructor-led training as most important, falling to the sixth most preferred delivery method (out of 15 available methods).
It’s clear that learning leaders acknowledge the role of learning technologies, but live training is still the preferred delivery method. Live face-to-face instructor-led training and live practice delivery both give trainees the opportunity to practice their skills in a safe environment with feedback-intensive interactive activities such as role-plays, case studies and scenarios. Coaching and mentor networks provide chances to learn from more seasoned managers, who can assist with questions and problems and act as a sounding board when managers run into challenges.
To further add to the research, respondents were asked to share best practices that support excellent first-time manager training. Not surprisingly, comments closely mirrored what respondents felt was most important in developing first-time manager training. We found that the best practices focused primarily on delivery methods including:
Coaching and mentoring: These are needed for building skills and getting feedback.
Live practice: Role-plays with feedback are great ways to learn skills.
Follow-up reinforcement on the job: Include action plans/assignments, projects, observing other managers and communities of practice.
Peer support networks: Continue to learn from other managers.
Blended: Use live face-to-face instructor-led training with self-paced, virtual and experiential exercises/mentoring.
Also, when a training event comes to a close, the learning can’t end: It must be reinforced. To solidify the training, on-the-job reinforcement and other forms of live practice are crucial to strengthen skills and cement knowledge.
Among the many insights that this study provided, first-time managers require an immersive training experience that allows them to practice and role-play to fully