From the Blog

How to Support a First-Time Manager

Managers continue to play a crucial role in the employee experience. The current COVID-19 crisis has stretched managers’ ability to not only support their team, but also to efficiently and successfully complete their own work responsibilities and tasks. For a seasoned manager, this balancing act is new to navigate, but for a first-time manager, the transition from employee to manager is filled with greater uncertainty.

Why manager support matters right now

When it comes down to it, managers are stressed. New research from Gallup shows that compared with May 2020, managers feel less prepared to do their job, less informed and less certain that their organization cares about their overall well-being. This impacts the work-life balance of managers, along with their physical well-being and their ability to support their team. This perceived lack of support can leave teams feeling less prepared or even burned out.

Becoming a manager is full of new responsibilities — stack the COVID-19 pandemic on top and the challenges can seem impossible. It’s clear that managers are important to the success of your people and your business. In fact, research shows that most employees say their immediate managers matter the most for well-being support at work. It’s also been found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. This means that in order for managers to care for their employees, the organization must care for managers

5 ways to support a first-time manager

As an organization, it’s important for first-time managers to feel prepared to become a manager. This comes down to proper training, resources, guidance and mentorship. It’s not a time to “sink or swim” — especially during uncharted territory such as the coronavirus pandemic. Workforces are remote, teams are distributed and many essential workers continue to work through the pandemic in hospitals, factories, grocery stores and more. As a new manager, how do you keep employees engaged, connected, productive and most importantly, supported?

Here are a few ways organizations can offer first-time manager support:

1. Create an environment of communication and collaboration

Employees are spending more time away from their office desk — working in remote locations or as deskless workers. This can mean your employees have limited access to email, or are struggling to stay connected to their coworkers and team. Employees who lack connection may be at risk for loneliness at work, which leads to employee disengagement. It can also cause challenges for managers who prioritize an environment of communication and collaboration.

With the new work-from-anywhere revolution, organizations have a unique opportunity to foster an environment where people feel connected. Provide the two-way communication you need to support employee listening, encourage participation and employee connections, and improve corporate reach. A digital-first culture that supports all your employees with the resources and connection they need — no matter where they work — will set your new managers up for success.

2. Provide additional training

Learning takes time — and there isn’t a secret recipe for success when it comes to manager training. But leaders can’t also expect first-time managers to know everything there is about being a manager after one or two trainings. Moving from an individual contributor to a manager requires a mental shift from an expert to delivering results through others. It’s up to other leaders and managers in the organization to equip new managers with the proper training, resources and mindset to succeed.

Encourage first-time managers to be lifelong learners. A culture of growth and support provides managers with ongoing developmental resources they can access to improve their management skills. Look to your People Team, HR department or team coaches to continue manager training throughout each year — for both new and existing managers.

3. Bring managers together

Learning from others is a great way for a new manager to learn effective management strategies. Leadership has the opportunity to connect team leads with manager summits, weekly meetings or even informal virtual learning sessions specifically for managers. This provides dedicated time for managers to discuss challenges, wins or lessons learned.

New managers who have easy access to a support system to provide guidance and coaching will likely feel more prepared and confident in their new role.

4. Ask open-ended questions

As a leader or experienced manager, you can help first-time managers develop leadership skills and behaviors with communication coaching. A great first step is to practice asking open-ended questions. According to Harvard Business Review, “unlike closed-ended questions (which evoke a “yes” or “no” response), open-ended questions promote dialogue and interpersonal engagement.”  

Practice asking open-ended questions with your managers to boost their confidence in communicating with their direct reports. Not only will this improve the relationship between managers and their employees, but it will also help employees feel valued and empowered to develop their own skills.

5. Promote positivity

Positivity goes a long way in the workplace. It’s infectious and it can actually influence employees. Help first-time managers promote positivity in the workplace and to their direct reports by encouraging visible and frequent recognition. There are many benefits of recognition in the workplace — including motivation and work performance.

Encourage new managers to model positive behaviors. Managers can kick off meetings with team wins or kudos, share highlights and successes to leadership or the entire company, along with send personal notes of gratitude to direct reports.

Managers play a critical role in organizations — they help show care and support to the whole employee in the workplace. The transition to a manager role from individual contributor is full of obstacles and learning opportunities. It’s up to leaders and the organization to equip first-time managers with the right mindset, training and skills to succeed in their new role.