What New Managers Need to Know… and How We Educate Them – (Part 1 of 2)

Stressed businesswoman photo

When you hire a new manager in your organization how do you prepare them to actually manage people in your unique environment?  Is it the same process whether you hire from the outside or promote from within or whether they have some supervisory experience or have never managed a person in their life?  Often we mistakenly assume that because someone has survived the interviewing and assessment process and been selected for the job that she is ready to manage. In reality, all we have really done is evaluated their potential to manage other people and fit into our culture.  Some organizations are extremely methodical about the direct experiences and classroom training they provide for current and potential management talent – think GE and McDonald’s and their in-house universities.  A friend of mine is a senior level executive at Goodwill and was recently selected to participate in their 18 month CEO preparatory program.  At the other end of the spectrum are many companies, including some of the healthcare clients and sales-focused organizations I’ve worked with, who tend to wave the “magic manager wand” and transform a great nurse into a nurse manager or a productive salesperson into a director of sales director overnight.  We turn them loose and assume that between their own initiative and their manager’s guidance they will figure it out before they do any serious damage.  In many instances, we fail miserably at helping people navigate the transition from peer to supervisor or to become seamlessly integrated into a new culture.

 Fast, Flexible and Free

When I was leading the HR function at Rancocas Hospital (now Our Lady of Lourdes Burlington County) we experienced too many of our new managers floundering and failing and in the process damaging their self-confidence and frustrating their staff.  The missteps of these managers also resulted in inordinate amounts of support time from HR and other corporate functions.  Tired of this cycle and believing that most of the meltdown could be avoided we decided to develop a management orientation program – not just for new managers, but for anyone hired into a management position within the past three years.  After three years we assumed that you had the role largely figured out.  Our constraints were time and money.  We were a typical community hospital with low margins and high workloads.  Outside consultants were out of the question as were extended off-site sessions.  The program needed to be fast, flexible and free.

An Economical Solution

After researching what other businesses, not just healthcare, were doing and conferring with internal leaders, we custom-built an internal platform.  The ultimate design established six distinct learning modules offered once a month in a half-day on-site format.  The HR/Training and Development group (it sounds impressive, but I think there were a total of three of us) crafted the majority of the content and then collaborated with various department directors in finance, risk management, public relations, etc. to finalize information and prep them to present their own sections.  Surprisingly, most of the directors we asked to teach their section were very willing to do so.  First out of self-interest, so they could address areas which were most problematic to their teams and secondly, they viewed it as professional development opportunity to deliver a group presentation in a safe environment.  The new managers received detailed information about the art of leadership and hospital operations and got acquainted with managers from other specialties and corporate staff before colliding for the first time during a work crisis.  Of course a manual was published – HR has to have its documentation – and it became a valuable resource containing key policies, forms and contact information.  Managers were enrolled beginning with the most recently hired and if someone missed a session, not uncommon in an acute care hospital setting, they could still attend the subsequent sessions and make up the missed module the next time it was offered.  However, to increase the motivation level to attend as scheduled, all managers who were expected to participate had their progress noted in their performance evaluation.

The Program Outline

The program modules were divided into the following segments:

  • What does it mean to be a manager?
  • Organizational structure and processes
  • Human Resource management
  • Risk Management
  • Finance and payroll
  • Marketing and public relations

In the next blog post, I will detail the items covered in each section.  Some of the items included and some that are excluded may surprise you.

If you are considering developing a management orientation program and would like assistance in its development or delivery, contact Greg Gast greggast@thirdstageconsultingllc.com or 215-514-7095.

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