It’s a new year, and companies are resolutely focused on how to best position themselves and their employees to do great work despite the on-going complications caused by the pandemic. With increased automation and digitization across all industries, as well as an unprecedented nationwide labor shortage (leaving companies stuck with vacancies in important positions for lengthy periods of time), HR personnel and executives are coming to two important realizations: (1) Their employees need to gain a lot of new skills, quickly, or else they’ll lose productivity; and (2) It’s often more expedient and cost-effective to develop these new skills in-house.
But how do companies implement learning and development initiatives within their own workforce in an engaging and productive manner? And, what skills or learnings should these efforts focus on, both for new management development, and to set all employees up for success?
Soft Skills for Success
While company heads might automatically assume that new technical skills are the bread and butter of a well-developed workforce, these aren’t the only important tools worthy of training and development initiatives within companies. Soft skills – interpersonal or “people skills” that are difficult to quantify or measure, but nonetheless serve as the sinews of workplace function–are in demand across every industry. Thus it behooves HR and senior executives to consider implementing management trainings that emphasize these skills.
Here are some of the most important and broadly applicable “soft” competencies that savvy company heads will be looking to develop in new managers, and by extension, their teams, in 2022:
1. Clear and precise communication
Great communicators are able to convey information in a way that is straightforward, unconfusing, informative, calm, and on-topic. In the “before times,” this might have been specific to phone conversations and face-to-face discussions, but now, strong communication includes the ability to convey information over video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom (nerve-wracking for some), and digital “chat” platforms such as those provided by Skype or Teams. It also includes the ability to write polite and clear emails, company memos, and other documents.
Importantly, being a great communicator means being available. That doesn’t necessarily require checking email on nights and weekends. But with the increased adoption of different communication platforms (most of which are accessible via personal smartphones) and more people working off-site and remotely, for better or worse, there is now an expectation of hastened response times. Strong technical managers are able to be responsive when needed.
2. Interpersonal skills
Being a great manager involves a certain amount of grace with people, which can be hard to teach and even harder to learn. When managing a team, having good interpersonal skills means exuding a certain amount of warmth and friendliness, while also conveying a firm, business-like approach. It means having self-awareness, awareness of one’s audience, and knowing how to work a room.
Moreover, knowing the people on a team can be an important component of interpersonal skills. Being aware of personal events outside of work (such as births or deaths in families), professional or academic accomplishments, and other goings-on can endear a manager to his or her team by supporting a personalized and empathetic approach to leadership.
3. Conflict resolution
Unfortunately, there are conflicts in any place where disparate personalities, skill sets, and outlooks collide. A good manager is adept at managing these conflicts in a way that is fair, practical, and avoids further wasting time. When mediating a workplace dispute, a good manager will allow each aggrieved party to say their piece, and listen to each quietly and without bias so as to evaluate the merit of each party’s claim. Discretion is also important–no need to involve other people, or distract everyone from important tasks.
Occasionally, such conflicts may require involvement of a legal team or HR, and in those cases, a good manager knows how and when to engage the relevant authorities.
4. Ability to motivate
Let’s face it – sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated. A great manager knows how to engage team members so that they feel included in the process and invested in delivering premium goods (whatever these goods may be.) Involving team members, trusting them, and inspiring them to do their best work are all important aspects of motivation. Team members need to have a safe space for exploration, ideas, and making (some) mistakes that are important to the learning process.
On the flip side, a good manager shows appreciation by celebrating individual and team successes, and rewarding or incentivizing participants in whatever ways they find meaningful (money, certificates of achievement, stock options, company-wide paintball adventures, gift cards to the Olive Garden, etc.)
To that end – a good manager also has a healthy respect for work-life balance. A well-rested and relaxed employee is far more motivated than a harried, strained one, and more likely to stay rather than leaving for greener pastures.
5. Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords. From a legal perspective, it’s obviously imperative that companies work to create opportunities and good working environments for individuals from under-represented backgrounds. But beyond mere rote compliance issues, the experiences, abilities, and perspectives that are brought to the table by a diverse pool of employees are important for thinking through challenging problems and coming up with novel ideas.
A great manager doesn’t only personally embrace team members from many different backgrounds–though obviously, that is important. He or she also creates a working environment where these employees feel welcomed, included, and valued as members of the team.
As a side, a truly excellent team manager knows that it’s important to have people with a variety of strengths, abilities, and backgrounds–and takes this into account when developing a diverse team.
How We Can Help
At Girard Training Solutions, we take the guesswork out of creating great managers, particularly for technical teams. We offer a variety of programs to upskill team members in everything from hiring, to facilitation (for occasional trainers), to managing technical teams and projects, to time management.
We also offer Everything DiSC(™) Management and Everything DiSC(™) Workplace trainings; these innovative programs that help new technical managers to improve their management styles so as to facilitate effective teamwork and produce positive relationships at work, respectively.
And, if none of our workshops deliver the exact training for your organizational needs, we also offer bespoke management trainings and facilitation for topics of your choice.
We provide a number of ways to train high-performing technical team managers, to upskill them in meaningful ways so as to support great work experiences for everyone involved. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help transform your workplace, one manager at a time.
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The Girard Training Solutions team includes experts in Learning and Development, Management Development, Facilitation, Learning Experience Design, Project Management, and Graphic Design.