8 reasons why leadership should be a part of employee training

A team is as good as its leader.

I repeat it a million times at work and I am sure, so do my HR friends.

A typical day of any HR Business Partner involves pushing the Line Managers (LM) or Reporting Managers (RM) for a bunch of HR initiatives. Be it taking approvals for petty expenses or to discussions around driving a cultural change, HRBPs are dependent on support and participation of line managers. An RM is the first point of contact in daily working of an individual employee. She is the one who drives experience based learning of an employee and impacts business performance. So many responsibilities makes leadership and employee training for RM’s an extremely critical requirement. The new reality requires an organization where RMs adapt, challenge and anticipate while responding to the pace at which the business is evolving.

And hence, it makes sense to invest in building their capabilities.

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Leadership training in a lot of organizations focus on developing specific behaviors and attitude, but only a few focus on developing skills of driving people practices in their organization. A line manager’s capability development plan should combine both. Focus should be laid on how to carry out the role of an RM in the best possible way as well as execute people practices.

Following are indicative areas to focus in line manager’s capability development plan:

1. Recruitment Skills

One of the key skills to be imparted during leadership training is to help RM’s know about who should be hired and why. It’s important for any panellist to be aware of things like:

– what is needed out of the role?
– what are the skills that should be evaluated?
– what are the basics of a BEI and how should it be conducted?
– what are the selection biases and how can they be avoided?

Additionally the RM should know the company specific process of raising a vacancy note so that no undue pressure is built on the business.

2. Objective Setting

Every organization has a different way of carrying out their performance cycle. The second element of leadership training should be to make an RM to not only understand the process of performance cycles but also how to carry out each sub process effectively. This sub step should cover:

– introduction to objective setting process
– timeline for the process,
– format of objectives – number, language and rules like SMART, and,
– ways to develop a goal tree that helps draw contribution lines between individual and company goals.

3. Performance Measurement

A lot of my colleagues confess that there are two ways to get a good rating. The first one is to really be good at what you do and second, to be good to who evaluates you. The third element of leadership training should involve aiming at letting the RM know how to differentiate between the two. You will have to ensure before every performance cycle that all the evaluators and calibrators know:

– the process of performance appraisal and most importantly the essence of it.
– the different sets of criteria used for appraisal.
– how to carry performance discussions before and after rating announcements are made.
– how to own the ratings and the performance of a team member.
– which part of the performance is to be rewarded and which one to be recognized.
– how to differentiate between performance and potential.

Many companies have chosen to do away with annual appraisals. They do not constrain continuous evaluation of employees by one annual number. But such a situation demands even more mature RM’s who know how to evaluate performance on regular basis.

4. Competency and Skill Mapping

Any part of team management involves knowing how to divide the work amongst the team members in the right way, as per the skills. Leadership training should involve ensuring that the kind of skills needed in that particular project and the maturity level of each team member should be mapped appropriately. This will help in having much logical and clearer answers to learning and development needs. Knowing the right way of evaluation will help RM’s in dividing tasks more appropriately and also efficiently enlarging the roles if need be without adding more headcount.

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5. Career Discussion

If there is a role which needs to be filled and there is an employee who wants to fill in for it, the best situation for an HR would be when such a transition happens without any misalignment with the RM. However, such a situation is rare. Most of the career moves are ugly scenarios because of either the role, or the employee expectations or the RM’s understanding of how the career path for an employee should look like. To avoid such situations, in any leadership training, the RM needs to be adequately trained about:

– the framework of career path followed in the company for a concerned business.
– the process of carrying out a career discussion and when is the right time to do it.
– how to have rigorous and employee-owned career talk.
– how to sponsor and support the plan (even when initially it doesn’t match his own line of thought or seems to be affecting business for a small span of time).
– succession planning rules and how they work. RM’s need to be honestly told about the reasons behind offers being made to people as per the needs of the business, despite multiple screenings for different available positions.
– ways to freeze career plans, form action items and convey them to the right stakeholders.
– ways to reach out to employees as a mentor.

6. Coaching and Feedback

The toughest deal in corporate for many employees is being diplomatic and always uttering politically correct statements. As a part of your leadership training strategy, you need to build capability in RM’s to be able to hold honest conversations with their employees, without being too hard on them. Giving feedback is an art, make your managers the master of this art. Without the right feedback, you would move and develop talent in the wrong direction.

7. Compensation Process

The biggest mystery employees have around HR is the way the compensation process, component division and increments take shape. You need to be transparent on the guiding principles of compensation without revealing numbers. Sharing general principles won’t help you justify past mistakes or legacy cases and it is best to admit what they were. But transparency would help you avoid building more such cases or repeat such mistakes. Most of the times, our employees embrace the paradox where they want the highest increment number but won’t be interested in passing that to the house workers in their personal lives. Giving them an understanding of a talent scenario would be humbling and mostly act as a favorable discussion. You need your RM’s to understand and convey it as your messenger because as an HR fraternity member, there is only a limited population you can reach to with explanations.

8. Process understanding of People Practices

Finally, the most important rule that you need to make your RM understand as a part of their leadership training is the fact that any process involving people should and will take time. This is because decisions around people cannot be reversed or rejected as easily as it happens with material. Make your managers step in the shoes of affected stakeholders to understand their constraints in a better way.

It is difficult to teach all the processes involved and expect RMs to remember them. However, it is much more efficient to invest in honing their skills rather than investing in time and explaining each of this individually to every employee. RMs are your hands and ears and they are they can have a huge impact on your organization. Investing in leadership training for them will not only increase the happiness quotient of your employees but also push your business towards making profits.


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