From embracing cutting-edge AI technology trends to optimizing customer engagement, the latest business strategies may sound promising. However, for some businesses, jumping on the newest fads can be a risky move. What’s most important is establishing a solid foundation that makes the execution of business strategies conducive to sustainable growth – and it all starts with investing in your front-line managers.
First-line managers form a critical conduit from your senior leadership to your employees and are often the missing link in businesses facing growth challenges. If you’re looking for a business strategy to help you expand in 2024 and beyond, consider focusing on strengthening your front-line management team with the following tips.
A front-line manager, sometimes called a first-line manager or front-line supervisor, is an individual in an organization who directly manages the work of employees who are involved in day-to-day operations. Front-line management plays a vital role in channeling communication between upper-level management and employees, executing strategic objectives and implementing organizational policies, thereby contributing substantially to the overall success of the business.
It’s typical for some business owners or senior leaders to try to do it all on their own, but there comes a time when they need to add and rely on critical front-line leaders. If you can relate to any of the following, it’s time to consider hiring more first-line managers:
- Existing supervisors are consistently struggling to manage their workload
- The size of the front-line team or the complexity of tasks has increased
- There’s a decline in productivity, an increase in errors or obvious performance gaps
- There’s a higher demand for more employee training and development
- Customer satisfaction is declining
- There’s increased employee turnover or poor retention
- The organization is planning for strategic expansion
Once you know it’s time to add front-line management roles, it’s critical to fill them with the best talent you can find. Look for the following leadership qualities in your supervisors:
- Supervisory skills: They should be able to inspire and motivate their team and provide clear direction, guidance and encouragement.
- Communication skills: They should have strong communication skills that allow them to listen effectively, give clear feedback and foster understanding.
- Problem-solving and decision-making skills: They should be skilled at identifying and resolving issues quickly and efficiently as well as making informed decisions to keep operations running smoothly.
- Empathy and emotional intelligence: The ability to understand and empathize with their team members helps foster strong manager-employee relationships.
- Customer orientation: Even in roles that aren’t customer-facing, a focus on customer satisfaction ensures a commitment to delivering high-quality work and positive customer experiences.
- Coaching and development skills: They should be committed to and skilled at supporting the professional growth of their team members through coaching, mentorship, training and providing development opportunities.
- High level of responsibility: Taking responsibility for the performance and outcomes of their team helps contribute to a culture of accountability.
- Team-building abilities: They can foster a collaborative, cohesive team environment.
Your front-line leaders can’t execute your business goals if they’re not clearly defined. First, create SMART goals for the business, which are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. These should ladder down to your people leaders so that their own goals contribute to the highest-priority strategic initiatives. Rather than overwhelming your front-line managers with goals, focus the lens on the top one or two targets that will drive success for the quarter or the year. This makes it easier for your managers to communicate and execute goals within their teams.
Ensuring that front-line managers have the bandwidth to effectively wear their leadership hats is essential for their success. In many organizations, front-line supervisors are often working managers. Regularly assess and adjust their supervisor workloads and make sure they’re delegating tasks when possible. This will help keep them from becoming overwhelmed or burned out by operational responsibilities so they have the time and energy to guide and support their team.
A listening campaign is critical for boosting employee satisfaction. Don’t assume that everyone’s happy if you’re not hearing complaints. Establish regular feedback mechanisms, such as surveys and anonymous suggestion boxes, to give everyone has a chance to express their views on management. This allows your human resources team and leadership to identify potential concerns before they escalate and demonstrates a commitment to a workplace where employees feel heard and valued.
Give your leaders the necessary budgetary resources and tools, such as digital task management software, to do their jobs effectively. Additionally, their total rewards package, including PTO, compensation, benefits and perquisites, should be competitive, and the company should provide comprehensive training and development programs that allow them to enhance their skills and abilities.
It’s not uncommon for some business leaders to think the company’s not big enough to warrant establishing a robust HR infrastructure. In fact, a well-structured HR system provides support for hiring, onboarding, training, and performance management – all critical for the success of front-line leaders. HR processes help ensure compliance with employment laws as well as assistance with personnel matters.
Scaling a business can be a complex undertaking, but achieving success is significantly easier with a foundation of qualified, well-trained front-line managers. If you’re looking for a business strategy that will drive growth, it’s a critical place to start. For more leadership tips and strategies, download our free e-book, The future of business is culture.