Bring success through exceptional first line manager training

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Stephen Fortune
Principal Consultant
The Oxford Group
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Global uncertainties, including political disagreements and economic upheavals, is creating a world that is constantly changing and bringing new challenges to businesses. For this reason, First Line Managers (FLMs) need to be constantly up-to-date with industry knowledge and on the ball with the latest technology. FLMs are some of the most important people in a company, as they link senior management with the employees who directly deliver the services to customers.

So commonly, businesses will invest the time and effort in training FLMs, but then not support them in the workplace after the training to ensure the new skills are applied to the job. Why is this?

I believe there are four keys to developing a FLM training programme that is sure to result in proficiency on the job after being trained:

1. Turn the training programme into a journey

When you sit back and think, have you ever learnt a new skill and applied it to your life simply through a training programme? The answer is probably no. This is because developing skills involves the trainee going through a systematic journey which includes learning the new skill and then applying it to the job in hand.

For this reason, any effective training programme needs to be made up of a variety of activities and tasks in the workplace environment, rather than just a single training event away from the workplace.

The programme needs to be a journey that allows the FLM participants to prepare, learn, practice, reflect on the programme and build processes in the programme that easily allow the FLM to complete the training journey.

2. Collaborate with the FLM's manager

How do you measure proficiency? The most obvious answer here is for the FLM to demonstrate their skills to their manager, whilst on the job. A successful training programme will include a clear framework of key skills that the manager can use to assess the level to which the FLM is using these for the job.

Managers can use this guide to question the success of the programme whilst continuing to coach the trainee after the sessions. It is important for FLMs to be given clear targets or missions to hit which will create step-by-step ways to feedback to the member of staff.

3. Practice, practice, practice

As mentioned in point one, applying the skills from the training programme are vital to the long-term success and application of the new skills.  To best help the FLMs, the programme needs to be structured with clear goals and a three-step model is ideal for this; prepare, perform and reflect.

Asking the FLM to practice on the job has the potential to be fatal because it can be incredibly easy for them to simply forget. I believe that technology is one of the best ways to ensure this doesn’t happen. It allows both the manager and the FLM to keep track of progress and communicate with each other.

4. Ensure results are visible and measurable

It is all very good investing time and money into training programmes, however it is almost pointless unless you can physically see the results, making it worthwhile. In point three, I discussed the importance of practicing the new skills on the job after the off-site training session, however you still need to measure this.

The managers should ask the FLM to log down the skills they have used and the outcomes or benefits of these on their jobs. This is an extremely easy way for managers to see the progress and thus the return on their investment. The L&D department can see aggregate data to demonstrate the true value of the programme which in turn allows them to analyse the usefulness of further training within the company.

To conclude, a successful training programme is vital for any FLM to develop in their role and be the best they can. This means engaging the trainee and providing them with multiple opportunities to practice their skills on the job. Another vital part to any training programme is the ability to measure its success. This involves noting down each time the FLM uses a new skill and asking managers to monitor and feedback.  

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