In many ways the Learning & Development team has a lot of similarities to the Marketing team. Just like the Marketing folks, L&D Managers have to divide the people into segments and target particular segments that will yield maximum returns and position courses for them. The key difference is that they do it for their internal customers. This difference is what makes the task more challenging and critical.
One such crucial target segment is the First Time Managers (FTMs). Every organization on boards a lot of smart people as freshers and wants to groom them for larger roles. It is common knowledge that it is a better option to groom a line of middle level managers than to source them from outside laterally. But many organizations start focussing on them only when they transition from a Mid Manager role to a Senior Manager role. The point they seem to miss is that, it will be way easier and economical if they plan an intervention early in the careers of these associates.
Becoming a manager for the first time is a change which requires the associate to shift gears and change tracks and that too simultaneously! This is often a challenge and people who emerge successful do without any structured support mechanism. A well designed & well planned talent transformation intervention is vital here because these associates are transitioning primarily from a technical or functional role to a managerial role. Many organization believe that a project management training or a certification (may be an MBA) will take care of this transition. They cannot be more wrong, because along with project management skills, the associate needs to change his attitude and behaviour to become an effective manager. Every organisation needs to identify a basket of behavioural competency that it wants the FTMs to exhibit; based on the strategy, culture and business they are in.
The importance attached to the FTMs is not without reason. Focussing on this group would yield rich dividends to the organization because of the following 5 key reasons:
It is economical: Traditional wisdom suggests that it is easier to bend a twig than a branch. Hence transformation of behaviours and talent early on will be easier when compared to an attempt made when the associates become fairly senior.
It is effective: The associates who are moving into the roles of managers for the first time are more likely to have an open mind. They wouldn’t have biases about management, or about the system. They would be more willing to learn as they know that they are new to this role. Hence the learning imparted at this juncture would have higher retention.
It is easier: Creating a comprehensive program spanning across a few weeks for a group senior manager is next to impossible. But for First Time Managers it is much easier, as their schedules will be more flexible when compared to that of senior associates.
It ensures that costly mistakes are avoided: when a person transitions into a manger he becomes accountable for a group of people. To set up a manager for failure (without equipping him) is to set up a whole team for failure. Such mistakes can be very costly and hence an investment before or during the transition would ensure that the organization doesn’t burn its fingers later.
It helps in retention: These First Time Managers are critical for execution of the company’s strategy. It will be very costly for the company to hire people for this role laterally. If the organization stands with the person while he is doing this transition and invests in him, he is more likely to realise that the organization is serious about grooming him. This in turn will motivate him to stay and grow the organization.
While designing a program for FTMs, one should also ensure that these programs are engaging, experiential and provide a safe learning environment for application of learning. No program without these key features will keep them motivated, as most of the FTMs today are from Gen Y.