Article: Here's how you can identify frontline leaders

A Brand Reachout InitiativeTalent Management

Here's how you can identify frontline leaders

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Frontline managers play a significant role in ensuring organizational success by being the face of the organization. This write-up shares some quick tips to identify first-level leaders more objectively, in a planned manner
Here's how you can identify frontline leaders

Frontline or First-level managers are those who are responsible for an organization’s day-to-day relationships with customers. They hold positions such as shop-floor supervisors, managers of sales teams, managers in restaurants or managers in call centers. They’re at the very first level of management across an organization’s business operations and functions. And cover 50% to 60% of a company’s management ranks and directly supervise as much as 80% of the workforce. The frontline managers are key to any organization’s business strategy as they are the ones who execute it. They are also responsible for keeping senior stakeholders updated on the latest developments in the business and motivate and guide people working under them. Unfortunately, despite holding such critical place in an organization, not much attention is given to identify and develop these budding leaders.  

In 2016, Human Capital Institute (HCI) in collaboration with Skillsoft surveyed HR leaders and practitioners from 252 organizations to understand how they were identifying and developing front-line or first-time managers. In a study of 252 organizations, it was found that frontline managers are vital to driving business success (96% agree), but only 48% agree they adequately invest in frontline manager development. Robust systems and practices to identify them are missing, and the same study reveals that 8 out of 10 front-line managers are promoted from within the organization.

Do not just rely on subjective recommendations that may be replete with biases and judgements rather use multiple processes to identify first-level leaders

Let’s look at some of the best practices about how to effectively identify frontline leaders:

1.    Determine managerial competency structure: Before identifying frontline leaders, it is necessary to understand and be aware of the competencies and skills required to be successful as first-time managers. To ascertain that, study past success stories, gather as much data as possible and derive insights out of it. Interview successful frontline managers, their supervisors, key leaders and also the direct reports of successful as well as unsuccessful frontline leaders to understand what makes one successful. Enlist critical competencies which new leaders need to possess. The research suggests that soft skills such as integrity, communication, and adaptability are more important than technical skills for front-line managers. Few more competencies like, adaptability, learning agility, planning, coaching and developing team hold lot of significance.

2.    Understand challenges and motivations for that role: Understand the various challenges associated with the role and mitigate these challenges. Identify what motivates people in this role and what resources and guidance they need to ensure success because there must be a willingness to become a manager.

3.    Assess objectively: Ensure that you use a well-chalked out, organized and objective systems to identify frontline managers. Do not just rely on subjective recommendations that may be replete with biases and judgments. Assess front-line managers’ leadership potential with a combination of practices like performance reviews, talent reviews, HR manager’s recommendations made in a standardized way, psychometric assessments or rigorous assessment centers. Objective assessments also help in creating a development plan for an individual before promoting him/her to the role.

4.    Use multiple sources of data to arrive at a decision:  If you are using performance review data ensure that you collect objective feedback from multiple sources, i.e., superior, peers, internal customers as well as self to impart more credibility to outcomes and decision taken. Furthermore, rigorous systems like assessment centers throw an opportunity to compare people’s scores collectively. It has been seen that individuals who score higher in competencies such as ‘people skills’ and ‘ability to plan, organize and execute’ prove to be more successful managers as compared to others in the long run.

5.    Test the waters first: Test individual’s ability before internal promotion by giving them some project assignments related to planning and people management (e.g., providing coaching to team members, leading team meetings).  Upon completion, provide feedback and highlight strengths and development areas and jointly set SMART goals to hone management skills. Finally, basis all the observations, management should create a transparent and fluid succession management strategy that actively educates and coaches all employees in managing their career portfolio.

6.    Provide support: Once you have identified the new leaders, it is important that they are given all the possible support and requisite resources to shoulder their responsibilities effectively. For initial months, they may be assigned a mentor, or even a supervisor can guide them. Their performance can initially be reviewed at shorter intervals to monitor their progress. They should also be given constructive feedback at regular intervals to help them stay on track.

Frontline leaders are more likely to be identified for their roles through interviews, manager recommendations, performance reviews, and self-promotion. While these methods are used to assess perceptions of soft skills in the candidate, they lack the rigor and objectivity of a rigorous process.

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Topics: Talent Management, #GetSetLearn

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