Blog.

We run the HR and Talent Attraction Forum for Kent based organisations and a passing comment at the last meeting was about the importance of the line manager. That got me thinking how this role can sometimes be overlooked but actually they really are at the heart of every department. This blog considers some of the reasons why they are so crucial and how we should make sure we appoint the right people as our line managers.

We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of the ‘C-Level’ and of course they are the cornerstone of any business but let’s take a minute to give line managers some love this Valentine’s Day.

A line manager is the person responsible for other employees and operations of a business while reporting to a higher-ranking executive. And in our view the employee’s aspect of their role is pivotal to a business’s ongoing success. The line manager is the first port of call for their subordinates and needs to have unique social skills in order to bond and get the most from their team. This should never be overlooked, you can have the best CEO in the world but if the line managers are disconnected then most business goals become a pipe dream. And how many times have you heard about staff leaving ‘because of their line manager’? It’s rarely the company as a whole that leaves employees disgruntled – the line manager is extremely influential.

Personal Development Plans (PDPs) are essential to keep staff engaged and on a trajectory to greater things. The line manager needs to ensure the PDPs are realistic by being supportive and mentoring each team member, on an individual basis, to help them achieve their objectives. In most cases PDPs have a commercial reward in some form and so the impact of not fulfilling what was agreed at the outset may be both detrimental to the employee and the firm. We are all guilty of being too busy answering emails or ‘fighting fires’ to step back and look at our PDPs and make sure we are on track. In the long term it’s more important to be responsive and engaged and the only way to truly manage yourself is to regularly set aside some ‘me time’. For one hour, ignore those emails, concentrate on your goals and review your personal and business objectives to make sure you’re seizing every opportunity and learning from your mistakes.

On an individual basis, thinking about yourself is easy (even if it’s not always done) but for the line manager they will be responsible for any number of PDPs and need to be fully aware of every individuals progress and identify where they need additional support. They need to be in-tune with their teams’ emotions, personal lives and skills. They also need to align with fellow line managers and their bosses to make sure that the operations are not siloed. It sounds like a full-time job – but in most cases the line manager has a ‘day job’ as well.

Line managers are measured on a number of factors ranging from employee turnover to departmental or enterprise wide P&L. They need detailed knowledge of the organisational structure and most importantly be ambassadors for the company culture. They’re the ones on the front line everyday – leading from the front. Whilst the CEO sets the culture it’s the line manager who has to put it into practise every day. This takes a unique set of attributes and often what happens is that line managers are appointed as a result of a natural progression in their career – but this is wrong, they need training and specific skills, they can’t just be the next in line.

The term ‘line manager’ doesn’t sound very sexy and maybe we need to address that? They are the glue that holds the team together and makes sure it’s always pushing forward. So, on this Thursday 14th February take a minute to say hello to your line manager – show them some love because they deserve it!

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