Front line managers may be called by different designations: They could be supervisors, leaders of R&D or sales teams, project leaders, team leaders, shop-floor leads, managers, etc. However, as the name suggests, frontline managers are the very first level of management across a company’s business operations and functions.
Frontline managers form that level of management that directly oversees a company's primary finance, production and market facing activities and are often regarded as the voice of management on the front line. Because of their unique positioning, they are best placed to communicate with the employees, address their concerns, counsel and coach them as well as ensure their commitment to the business and that people meet set targets. It is the frontline managers who must encourage and bolster the morale of people who eventually get the job done—those who design, make, and sell the products or deliver services to customers. Front-line managers form an integral and critical part of the people and the performance causal chain since they are the ones who can create effective team functioning.
Importance of training and guiding the front line managers is critical for the organization
Frontline managers are often not provided robust training and development programs to meet the rising job demands. In most cases, leadership development programs for this level tend to be ad hoc, sporadic, or too brief to adequately cover all the responsibilities that are within the purview of their role in an organization.
Businesses expect frontline managers to cover a lot of complicated areas in the working of an organization, typically in contexts where we cannot easily monitor their performance. The execution of business strategy often rests on how they perform those tasks. Therefore, if one undervalues and underinvests in these areas, the organization is sure to pay the price. In order to avoid such a scenario, it is important for the management to evaluate whether the front line managers have the tools they need to learn important leadership skills or the time required to grow and learn on the job. These questions have to be answered in order to ensure organizational alignment. In this regard, it helps to provide them a clear picture of how their responsibilities and the responsibilities of those who report to them are related to the organization’s long-term vision and strategic plan.
Companies that succeed in redefining the role of frontline managers in their organization can improve their performance remarkably. Successful approaches can be applied across many industries. The Hotel Industry in India is still hit by a case of over supply yet there are examples of successful hotel chains who have done a great job on the frontline managers making them lift the bottom line in a difficult market scenario.
Call for action
The key lies in shifting to frontline managers who have the time—and the ability—to address the unique circumstances of their specific area of operations; to foresee trouble and nip it in the bud; and to encourage workers to cash-in on opportunities for self-improvement. In difficult economic times, making employees more productive is even more crucial. When a leader taps into the enormous latent power of the company’s frontline managers, the payoff is a more resilient and more successful organization.
Some organisations have actually been able to douse the flames of conflict and even production loss by empowering front line managers to take on the spot decisions so as to circumvent a short fuse situation. Empowered frontline managers have proven that because they are closest to the fire they actually understand the pulse of a given situation and take that astounding good decision to turn a situation around, saving the organisation both time and money.