Creating a new manager training program that supports company leaders at every level is challenging. Often the needs of new managers do not match those of managers with more experience. Finding the balance between tactical instruction and abstract reflection is critical.
Here’s how one VP of Talent built two manager training programs from scratch to support company leaders at each level.
Katie Lane is the VP of Talent at Submittable, a 97-person company that powers online submissions and applications based in Missoula, MT. When she joined the team two years ago, Katie was the first strictly HR hire—a position that was both fascinating and exhausting. Tasked with overseeing all HR initiatives from onboarding and benefits administration to manager training and employee relations, if something needs getting done, Katie is the one doing it.
From the start, Katie sought to learn from employees and zero-in on the new processes she would need to build. Early in her role, it became clear that while Submittable has top-notch leaders, managers often felt siloed or isolated from each other. There was a need for more specific training that would give team leaders direction and expectations when approaching some of the more specific HR related issues.
With support from the executive team, Katie created the Leadership Engagement Group, a once-monthly manager training session open to all company leaders.
The Leadership Engagement Group — LEG for short — initially began as a way to bring together managers from all levels to discuss the ins-and-outs of their roles, the various challenges they were facing. The goal was to create some degree of managerial consistency across the organization.
At first Katie tried to make each meeting informative and focused on a specific topic. While approach was helpful for newer managers, she often found it difficult to convince senior level leadership to attend.
After a few months, and discussing the format with managers from across the company, Katie decided to restructure LEG, putting an emphasis on creating an open and supportive space for managers to share out, ask for guidance, and talk about their own personal experiences. The new program has led to highly impactful conversations and an uptick in meeting attendance (Katie says LEG has almost full attendance from all management each month!).
As LEG has grown and transformed over two years, Katie has made sure to check-in with managers, sourcing feedback and ideas along the way. The checkins helped her identify the specific needs of new managers versus those with more experience.
Ultimately, the meetings led to the formation of a second manager training group — the New Managers Group — focused less on abstract topics and more on the tactics of becoming a successful team leader for first timers. In this group, Katie covers things like interviewing, giving and receiving feedback, transitioning yourself and your team, and anything related to the nitty gritty of HR.
The second group meets monthly and has led to more peer-to-peer mentorship and cross functional collaboration as new managers have become a source of support for each other.
Here are some key takeaways for building your new manager training program:
In addition to building confidence and skills among new managers, the Submittable manager training programs have helped instill an important feeling of camaraderie and support across the various company departments during times of change. Katie cites LEG and the New Managers Group with improving company morale and streamlining HR processes. And the best part? Katie and her managers look forward to the meetings every month!
Building out a new manager training program? Check out our article on Empowering First-Time Managers.