How To Train Your Employees To Become Managers

Where do you find the perfect manager? Hiring a manager from within your current employees seems wise. Who better knows your business that those already working it?

Managing, though, is a special kind of leadership. It can be challenging to be the middleman between the employees and the owner.

Unfortunately, in many small businesses, formal management training is rare. If employees show themselves to be good workers, they get promoted whether they are ready to manage or not. Rather than plucking employees from their current job and dropping them cold turkey directly into management, you can begin training your employees to be managers right where they’re at in their current job.

The basic principle to making this approach work is to consider the qualities of a good manager, and then provide employees the opportunity to build those qualities now. Management skills can be broken down into three basic areas, according to leadership expert Eric Basu:

  1. Personal skills: This is the ability of an employee to evaluate themselves and identify strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Team-focused skills: This is the ability of an employee to manage, motivate, and communicate with small groups.
  3. Corporate skills: These are the skills and drive to make your business more successful.

Having all three of these skills are necessary for every manager. So how do you go about growing these three key skills in your employees?

Create A Culture Of Learning

First and foremost, create a culture of learning.

By doing this, you create employees who aren’t satisfied unless they are always pushing themselves and meeting new challenges. Management requires a person who is bent towards learning, always wanting to find the best way or the new technology to make things work better.

1. Training is more than job-specific.

Offering your employees training for their specific job is the most obvious way to approach learning in the work place. However, this tends to be a short-sighted solution because it leaves you with employees who are perfectly trained for a specific job — they might know how to run a machine or work with customers — but do not know anything beyond what their job requires.

Training, in general, is more than just learning to operate a cash register. According to Business Insider, training has the potential to increase productivity and improve employee retention, for starters. Even Starbucks realizes this, offering their employees a chance to earn a college degree by helping them do it. Giving your employees the chance to learn more than they need to empowers them on the job.

Start seeing training for what it does beyond the knowledge it provides.

2. Help employees learn how to learn.

Even if your employees want to learn about things that aren’t immediately related to their job, encouraging a culture of learning, no matter what they learn, is the key. Knowing how to learn is its own skill, one a manager must have as they face different situations that they will need to quickly understand and disseminate.

Let your employees practice the art of learning through training.

3. Training doesn’t have to be expensive.

Entrepreneur Richard Branson is known for encouraging lifelong learning in his employees. Branson is wise to point out that providing this training doesn’t necessarily mean huge expense.

Author Mary K. Pratt echoes this sentiment in regards to affordable training, outlining six creative and low-cost ways you can encourage learning. If you can’t offer training in house, provide incentives for employees to learn on their own. Give them a book allowance, or time off to attend conferences. Pay for online courses or encourage them to use free options like Coursera. Reward employees if they complete online courses or certifications.

Whether you bring a trainer in or use access to online courses, the promise of training is both an incentive for employees and way to build key skills in your future managers. Investing time and money into training your employees also makes a clear statement on how valuable they are.

Encourage Time Management Techniques

Managers of people are also managers of time, and helping your employees learn to use their own time wisely now will embed time management principles that will help them later, when they are a manager.

1. Delegation.

Teach your employees to break their job down into smaller tasks. In a sense, they are learning how to delegate their time to themselves to be more productive. When they become manager, they are able to delegate tasks to other people in the same way.

2. Prioritization.

Help your employees learn to discern which tasks are the most important and must be done first, and which can wait until later. You might start by prioritizing their tasks for them and explaining why you have ordered them in this manner. As time goes on, let them prioritize tasks on their own.

3. Goal setting.

Goals can be as small as not taking a personal call during working hours, or as large as getting all the new stock on the shelves by the end of the shift. They might be number-based productivity goals or more overt time management goals.

Again, you might start by setting a few benchmarks for employees and then eventually give them the freedom to make their own goals. In meetings or employee reviews, ask about the daily, weekly, and personal goals they have set for themselves and what they are doing to meet them.

Build Team Communication Skills

Helping your employees learn to communicate with other employees before being asked to manage them is a huge component. Communication, after all, is one of those things that, once broken, can lead to horrendous problems.

1. Make your team meetings work double time.

You likely have regular meetings, whether the whole team is assembled or a shift crew. Turn these meetings into a communication exercise by having employees take turns leading the full meeting, or at least part of it.

Squeeze some communication training into a meeting with something as simple as showing a TED talk or quick SlideShare presentation. Have a suggestion box and feature one question or suggestion to discuss each meeting. Let your employees get real-world practice with communication by keeping your meetings from being a one-sided top-down lecture and encouraging them to lead the discussion.

2. Familiarize employees with your company’s jargon.

Jargon and industry terminology aren’t just for the people making the decisions. They are a key component to understanding what happens inside your business.

Let all of your employees in on the words and phrases used so that when they hear you use them, they understand the context, they know what you are talking about, and they don’t feel like management is keeping them in the dark. Encourage them to use the technical terms of your business. It’s better that they all learn it now rather than have to practically learn a new language when they are promoted to management.

Encourage The Practice Of Leadership

Becoming a manager without leadership skills is a recipe for disaster.

By helping your employees to see themselves as leaders no matter what their position or whether or not they even work full-time, you instill an understanding of what leadership entails. Leadership should already be in place when the promotion to being a manager comes along.

1. Leadership happens in the small things.

Honesty, following company policy, and obeying rules are those small things that many workers fudge a bit here and there because “it isn’t really hurting anyone.” Leadership in the small things points to how an employee will handle the bigger things, however.

Does your employee consistently arrive a bit late for his shift? Does your employee fail to follow a dress code once in a while? Maybe “borrow” supplies, or give their friends a discount at the cash register? Then he is not ready to lead, because he cannot yet lead by action.

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Again, those seemingly unimportant things are an indicator that there is something big beneath the surface: the employee either doesn’t respect your business, your goals, or your leadership enough. And that is someone who isn’t ready to be a manager.

To help employees understand that the small things matter, address this kind of “small” behavior (in private) the first time you see it so that it doesn’t have a chance to become a habit. This is your chance to help them understand what it takes to lead: actions matter more than talk.

It goes without saying that you, as the leader, should be also leading by example in caring about these “small” things, or you’ll have an impossible time demanding it of your employees and future managers.

2. Create low-level leadership opportunities.

Leading others is a scary proposition, particularly for employees who have never done anything like it before. In order to make the process easier, start by creating “low-level” practice opportunities.

Do you have shift managers? Can you rotate employees to take turns at some aspect of managing a shift or typical work day? Can you assign someone the task of scheduling and leading a meeting? Planning the front window display?

When considering how to delegate tasks that need to get done, consider that leadership opportunities are part of that delegation.

Pull Back The Curtain And Reveal The Big Picture

Helping your employees understand your business better is part of building their corporate skills, one of those three key areas of leadership.

1. Build better attitudes about employee value.

Employees can easily get into the mindset that the management doesn’t really want them to understand the bigger picture, and so their only responsibility is to clock in and do the job they were assigned.

That kind of attitude doesn’t work for a manager, and to help keep it from even setting in, it’s best to let your employees understand how they fit into the larger plan.

Tell your employees what the goals are that their work will be involved in. Even your part-time employees need to know they have a valuable place in that plan. The employee at the cash register isn’t just ringing up sales. She’s the face of the business to customers. Help her see how she fits into a larger picture.

Seeing where and how they fit provides them the chance, if their attitude allows it, to see beyond the narrow “that’s not my job” mentality and instead go out of their way to see that things get done. At that point, employees are more like management material. They have the larger goal in mind, and see where the smaller pieces fit.

2. Help them understand success affects them.

A decent employee is motivated to get their own paycheck, and so she does the work you tell her to do, but isn’t terribly motivated to do much more. After all, she’s here to get paid and that’s it.

A great employee wants to see the business succeed because he knows that it also means he will succeed. He goes above and beyond, because getting paid isn’t his only motivation. He wants to be part of a success.

The second employee is going to help your business grow. They will care about loss prevention, lost sales, dissatisfied customers, and all of those daily things that affect your bottom line.

The best way employees can understand how success affects them is to let them get a reward when your business reaches a success milestone. From something as small as a catered meal after a big sale to a pay increase when sales goals are met, directly reaping the benefits of your business’s success motivates employees to make it happen again. If your business relies on your employees to be the success it is, not letting them share in the reward demotivates them completely.

Whether your business is retail, service, or staffed mainly by part-time employees, these methods can — and should — be put into practice. It is easy for hourly employees, whose pay is measured by the time they give to you, to slip into the mindset of clocking in and clocking out.

That mindset does not make a good manager.

By giving your employees the chance to build management skills and habits before they become managers, you are making it possible to easily see which employees will actually make the best manager. You are, essentially, seeing them use their skills in a “sandbox”, before they are actually needed.

How To Train Your Employees To Become Managers