Last week, I had the privilege of presenting to two different groups on two very different topics. The first was for the Marsh & McLennan Agency on the Bermuda Triangle of employment law – FMLA, ADA, workers’ compensation, and other leave issues. The second was at MRA’s Minnesota HR Conference on investigations into sexual harassment and workplace bullying. Both groups had great questions and were super fun. Yet, even though the topics were different, one issue cropped up in both – manager training.
Manager training is crucial. Managers are on the front line of production, products, marketing, and many other business aspects of any organization. They are also on the front line of employment law issues. For example, a manager who denies an employee’s request to alter her shift due to insomnia issues could be launching an employer headfirst into an ADA claim. Or, a manager to engages in sexual banter with employees could create strict liability for a sexual harassment claim. These exemplify why this training is downright essential.
Yet, it is hard to get managers together to learn about compliance issues. First, they’re busy people. Second, it’s compliance. And, even when you do get them together and try to (gently) beat these issues into them, more often than not, they may forget or cannot recall the ins-and-outs of FMLA leave or the intricacies of your benefit plan. This isn’t because managers don’t want to remember all of this information – it would just be impossible to do so. They’re human.
Instead of rote memorization, managers need to know enough – enough to know when they need step into a situation and enough to know who to talk to. This is all.
So how do you get to enough? In my humble opinion, it takes real world examples and lots of time for questions. With simulations and questions, managers get some experimental learning so they can identify when they need help. It’s kinda like giving managers spidey sense. As soon as they see, hear, or otherwise learn about a situation, we want manager’s spidey sense to go off and know what to do and who to talk to. Good training can do this.
Here are the key ingredients for an effective manager training:
- Managers need to understand their roles and responsibilities to prevent and stop inappropriate behavior (even if that behavior wouldn’t technically be unlawful).
- Managers need to know enough about compensation, benefits, and other privileges employees may have (think leave and reasonable accommodations) to answer basic questions.
- Managers need to know how to explain performance and conduct expectations and how to seek improvement of both.
- Managers need to know who to talk to when issues arise and who to send employees to when they have questions the manager can’t answer.
Managing is really hard. Employers succeed when they recognize this and equip managers with the training and development they need.