Those who lead the People or HR function often find themselves stepping in to assist managers in their daily duties. Because early-stage companies promote managers quickly, these inexperienced leaders often require a guiding hand.
Here’s how one scrappy Head of People Operations identified the need for a manager training program and then built it from the ground up.
Before her current role as Director of People Ops at CareRev, Suzanne Griffin was the sole People Operations lead at Sprout, an 80-person electronics recycler based in Charlotte. As the only point of contact in HR, she dealt with employee experience, compliance, issue resolution, professional development, and more. At times, she even stepped in to help on IT and marketing projects. For Suzanne, no two days were the same.
In 2020, the leadership team at Sprout identified a performance problem. Morale slipped as poor performers weren’t being held accountable for their lack of effort. The responsibility fell on managers who felt ill-equipped to deal with these issues.
Leadership turned to Suzanne to build a program to empower managers with the frameworks they needed for team accountability.
With buy-in from the top, Suzanne began to build a performance management training program for Sprout’s managers.
Here’s how she did it:
Suzanne worked closely with the CEO to create alignment on the problem and scope out the high-level details. They ended up with a 6-month plan that featured a one-hour learning session each month for all managers.
Next, Suzanne brainstormed a few potential session topics and took them to the managers. She asked managers which themes would be the most beneficial and asked for additional ideas. By including her audience early in the process, Suzanne gained support and trust from the managers from the start. Plus, she made sure that the content she created would be valuable.
Sprout wasn’t the first company to build a manager training program. Armed with internal context and ideas, Suzanne turned outward and began to build out the content of her program with best practices. She read books like Radical Candor, studied articles from sources like Harvard Business Review, and talked to peers in communities like Resources for Humans.
After establishing the basic outlines of each of the sessions, Suzanne started scheduling out the entire calendar for the program. By finding dates in advance, she could backfill the work needed to prepare for each of them.
Before every meeting, Suzanne built a slide deck. The deck was minimalist in design, meant to provoke conversation rather than explain concepts in depth. If one manager had extensive knowledge about a specific topic, Suzanne included them in the crafting of that session.
Before every meeting, Suzanne sent out reminders to the participants about the upcoming session and what would be covered. Because she notified everyone a few days in advance, they arrived at the meetings with recent conversations and examples in mind.
Besides addressing the immediate performance issues, the manager training program helped establish HR as a partner for managers. Several managers began to set up 1:1 conversations with Suzanne to chat about things they were working through.
In the future, Suzanne plans to assign more action items after the sessions to help everyone internalize the concepts covered and bring them into everyday use.