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What great managers need to know

  By Steve Bareham

Great managers have to know a lot, and as the world gets more complicated, there’s a lot more to know. Competent managers have good understandings of finance, marketing, sales, information systems, research and development, etc. But when assembling the hierarchy of what you need to know, your human resources knowledge should also be very close to the top, because if you’re a manager with only a superficial grasp of the holistic HR process, you have an enormous blind spot that can seriously hamper your career advancement.

I’ve seen managers muddle through for years because they were highly proficient in specific areas of expertise, but then suddenly everything implodes because they didn’t know how to manage staff. And when the implosion occurs, it’s invariably ugly. Often, the manager is caught totally unaware, thinking he, or she, had survived for 20 years and now—blam—my expertise has been trumped by operational dysfunction and a staff in revolt.

In reality, such people got Peter Principled by being promoted into positions they were never fully qualified to hold. People without formal HR knowledge and training really shouldn’t be put in charge of people until they shore up that weakness. Yet, untold tens of millions of people with no HR expertise have willingly, or unwillingly, been thrown into management roles where suddenly they don’t know what they don’t know.

How can anyone expect them to be competent? Metaphorically, it’s like expecting an electrician to wire a house properly with zero training; I wouldn’t want to live in it!

So let’s look at what great managers know and know how to do; look at the unfamiliar points as development opportunities! All of this information is covered in the online human resources course offered by Selkirk College through its Golf Operations Online Certificate Program. See website: http://selkirk.ca/programs/ht/golf/

Do you know:    

  1. how to conduct job analyses: these enlighten businesses and organizations about the requirements of specific staff positions, and when you determine how many positions are needed and how much time each one requires to do in a given time period, you get  crucial information about precisely how many people are required to staff the organization—the Goldilocks formula, not too many staff, not too few, and each with just the right qualifications. Many organizations get this wrong and suffer accordingly.
  2. what should be included in each job description/specification for each person you employ or manage so you know precisely what to look for in job applicants and so the person filling the position can perform the job to a high standard in a reasonable amount of time? Many organizations don’t even have job descriptions and specifications for those jobs, a fact that explains a lot of performance issues, poor staff morale and generally cranky workplaces where people are confused about what they’re supposed to do and about what they’ll ultimately be evaluated on. Good job descriptions/specifications are perhaps the most important tools a manager can create and use.
  3. the right ways and wrong ways to recruit and shortlist job applicants; do it the right way and you’ll waste far less time and have far fewer costly failures
  4. how job interviews should be conducted to ensure that you get the information you need? Job interviews are often done horribly; no process here can be disastrous.
  5. how to orient new staff to get them off on the right foot? Orientation often means giving someone a brochure to read and showing them around in a two-hour blur of introductions. Next the new hire faces days or weeks of frustration trying to figure out how he/she fits in—bad for morale and a terrible waste of productivity.
  6. how the recruitment and selection process, in concert with the job interview and orientation period, should yield valuable information about training needs (few new hires have 100% of the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill every job duty and responsibility). Knowing where gaps exist enables you to spot deficiencies and then plan training to avoid potentially costly errors and employee frustration.
  7. how to structure and conduct performance evaluations; this is another area where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. They should be properly planned and structured so that the people being evaluated leave the room feeling positive. If performance evaluations are the equivalent of visits to the dentist that don’t result in improved performance, they aren’t being done correctly.
  8. what coaching and mentoring plans look like? These can elevate the morale and commitment of both new and old employees, but few organizations even attempt them. It’s a basic rule of human psychology—virtually all people perform better when they believe their managers care about them.
  9. what retention strategies are available and which work better than others? As the workforce changes in the coming years (retiring baby boomers and more immigrants) there is going to be fierce competition for qualified staff, so keeping your best people will be increasingly difficult.
  10. how to keep up with the changing socio-economic-technological environment so employee skills remain current? This isn’t easy in a world with seven billion people where new products and services emerge daily; if you have competitors, you need to stay abreast, or preferably ahead.
  11. how to discipline employees, when needed, in ways that enable them to redeem themselves and to continue (or become) valued members of staff? (do it wrong and it can mean lawsuits)
  12. how to terminate someone humanely and in a way that doesn’t end up in court? This knowledge, too, can save you a lot of time, aggravation, stress, and money, not to mention perhaps deter an angry dismissed employee from seeking retribution—it happens.  

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