Leadership Training for Frontline Managers: A Necessary Investment for Success

Making the connection between leadership and the company bottom line isn’t revolutionary. But Gallup estimates that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work, and puts the cost of disengagement at $550 billion per year.

Why is corporate leadership training relevant? Frontline managers have a direct impact on employee engagement, because the majority of employees report to them. A 2014 Harvard Business Review study found that 79% of global executives believe not having strong front-line leaders negatively impacts company performance.

Here are two real-world examples that demonstrate the connection between strong leadership development and positive business outcomes.

“Fully 79% of global executives believe not having strong front-line leaders negatively impacts company performance.”

In 2007, Canadian juice and fruit snack company Sun-Rype overhauled its talent management processes. A critical component to its new framework was an emphasis on developing its managers. Under the new system, managers across the organization began to take more initiative and make a conscientious effort to helping drive better business results. Sun-Rype improved its talent management approach by:

  • Defining responsibilities for managers and employees and holding them accountable
  • Initiating a pay-per-performance system and teaching managers how to give feedback; and
  • Aligning corporate strategies with departmental and individual goals

The results were impressive:

  • Overall improvement in corporate culture and employee engagement
  • Increased employee accountability, with 100% performance review completion rates
  • A results-oriented culture taligned and committed to achieving the company’s vision

Overall, Sun-Rype was able to improve its culture and the expectation that its employees, driven from the executive level, are held accountable to helping the company continue to innovate and grow.

California-based Pechanga faced a significant challenge when it decided to move from a seniority-based compensation plan to a performance-based one. The organization’s senior and mid-level managers were tasked with leading the charge, but not without being provided with the proper training to get buy-in from 4,500 team members.

Some of the key areas of focus were:

  • Effective performance management training to distinguish among the various levels of performers
  • Giving managers the tools needed to have meaningful performance conversations with employees; and
  • Creating a culture of open dialogue between managers, employees and executives

Training frontline managers before, during and after implementation was essential to the success of Pechanga’s transition to its new performance management process.

The lesson: Invest in the leadership skills of your frontline managers and make sure they have the tools and resources they need to effectively communicate with, coach and engage employees. This will help frontline managers show employees the true meaning and purpose in their work and how it contributes to the organization’s overall success.

One great leader, John F. Kennedy, said it best,: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” You could add: Leadership development is indispensable to your bottom line.


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