BearingPoint: Actively managing staff leads to success

19 February 2015 Consultancy.uk

Front-line managers play a decisive role in improving business performance with up to a 20% increase in recurring productivity to be gained through active management techniques, recent research from the BearingPoint Institute discloses. Given that 80% of managers are front-line managers*, the importance of their efficacy in their respective positions cannot be understated.

To gain insight into the most effective performance of a front-line managerial role, the BearingPoint Institute analysed the way in which 10,000 front-line managers spent their time over a period of 20 years at 40 blue chip companies. The key insight from the vast trove of data is that front-line managers are at their most effective when they are active managers - with transforming front-line managers into active managers, key to increasing productivity and organisational performance.

According to Brendan Cahill, Partner at BearingPoint UK and author of the study, the difference between an ‘active’ front-line manager and a ‘passive’ one is the respective time spent helping their subalterns develop an effective performance - in their daily routine roles - through actively coaching, guidance, assisting and supporting their staff. Typical front-line managers spend about 35% of their time on administration, 22% of their time inactive, and are actively managing no more than 25% of their time. For ideal results, the consulting firm states, front-line managers need to be spending in excess of 60% of their time actively managing their staff.

Typical frontline manager vs active manager

The problem, according to the report, why so few front-line managers are equipped with the skills or capacity to deliver effective active managerial engagement over their subalterns, stems from the way in which front-line managers are promoted. Promotion to front-line positions is often the result of professionals’ high performance in pre-management roles, irrespective of whether they are well suited for management. This creates ‘accident’ managers, and many of those managers who are “typically ill equipped to perform successfully in their new role.”

Front-line managers supervise up to 80% of the workforce

To develop an effective order of front-line managers, the passively performing managers themselves need to undergo active management, with the key to transforming these managers “a combination of up front development coupled with on-going mentoring and coaching for a period of at least 12 weeks.” This plan, according to the research, led to “performance gains of up to 30% within their teams in just 12 weeks.”

Cahill remarking that: “Successful businesses are those that increase productivity. Front-line managers actively managing have the potential to unlock substantial, recurring operational improvements within their teams. In most organizations, it is an opportunity that is largely ignored.”

 * According to the Harvard Business Review.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.