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How an employee check-in reduces challenges for new managers

Management roles. Some people take to them like ducks to water. Others not so much. Many newly-minted bosses can often feel unprepared and out of their depth. And this is a problem, because going from employee to manager to leader is the most typical career track there is. HR leaders must understand that there are serious challenges for new managers. Only then can you take steps to ease their burden.

This week, we're continuing our series on how an employee check-in can help all kinds of people in your organisation. Today, we'll be looking at how check-ins can make life much easier for first-time managers. Since it's HR's job to support all employees, including people in management roles. And establishing a weekly employee check-in is a great way to do that.

The biggest challenges for new managers

In a competitive work environment, even getting promoted at all can be difficult. A person has to work hard. They have to stand out and earn the trust of business leadership. So, once someone finally breaks into a management role, they might assume their troubles are over. But that couldn't be further from the truth. So, let's look at what HR must deal with in terms of challenges for new managers.

Figuring out how to lead

Let's kick things off with the most problematic of the various challenges for new managers. A study by Digits of over 1,000 UK employees found that just over a quarter of managers have never had any formal management training. 39% had gone through training when they first became managers. All in all, only around a third reported getting trained on a regular basis.

This forces inexperienced leaders to form an approach to management as they go. But good leadership isn't something you should expect people to achieve automatically. It's a skill like any other. And one that HR must help to cultivate.

Without formal training, it's easy for bad habits to creep in. A good manager would use positive encouragement and emotional intelligence to get results. By comparison, a bad manager might think they can achieve the same thing by belittling or threatening their team members.

Of course, that's an extreme example. But inexperienced managers can also struggle with things like providing recognition or mediating conflict. This issue is the root of almost all other challenges new managers can expect to face.

Getting to know their people

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to employee management. Each person is an individual. So, every new manager should start by getting to know all the people on their team. It may seem like nothing in retrospect. But breaking the ice can be one of the most anxiety-inducing challenges for new managers.

Of course, this is less of an issue for managers in charge of people they've already worked with. But, all the same, a change in position can bring a shift in perspective. A person might spot things as someone's manager they never noticed as their colleague.

For starters, it's good social wellbeing practice. But that's not all. Managers must know their subordinates so they can make informed decisions. They should know everyone's strengths so they can assign tasks efficiently. But it's not only about knowing what everyone brings to the table.

They also need to know what motivates their people. Who's driven by career ambition, and who simply thrives off the work itself. Only then can they offer the professional development their employees need.

Beyond that, managers should be aware of the support needs of their people. Employees with health concerns or familial commitments might need flexibility to manage emergencies. Neurodivergant employees may need access to quiet spaces to escape noise and other stimulation. But remember, their needs can vary from person to person. And it's important not to assume anything.

There's an almost limitless number of different support needs people can have. And the first step to providing that support is awareness.

Building trust and rapport is a challenge for new managers

Never take trust at work for granted. It's an essential building block for a successful workplace culture. That said, it's far from a given, which is why it's one of the biggest challenges for new managers. Trust is something that takes time to build. But it can be destroyed in an instant.

It's one thing for established managers to build trust. They (ideally) have a track record for delivering results that goes back years. New hires can usually read the room and figure out whether they're in safe hands.

Freshly promoted managers, however, are untested. Employees don't know what to expect from them. They could either be a breath of fresh air or their worst nightmare. That means early blunders or incompetence could leave a lasting impression.

Managers need to have the tools to engage with their people and have important conversations. They need to be able to give their people a voice, and to follow through on actionable insights. When an employee knows they can raise an issue, and their boss will actually do something about it, trust is the natural result. It's all thanks to frequent two-way feedback.

Unfortunately, keeping all those plates spinning is a ton of extra responsibility. And we're sure you can guess what that leads to...

More responsibility means more stress

Promotion to management is often accompanied by a host of new responsibilities. But that doesn't mean they can step away from the employee-level aspects of their job altogether. In other words, becoming a manager can be a fast-track to accumulating stress.

A survey from ZenBusiness found that around 1 in 4 managers view their job as "extremely" stressful. 62% view their job as moderately stressful. On top of that, it seems that the more people someone manages, the higher their stress. Managers in charge of teams of over 30 people were more likely to report high stress (44%). By comparison, people managing teams of five or fewer tended to report lower stress levels.

On top of that, the workplace is already stressful enough as it is. Gallup's latest State of the Global Workplace report showed that global stress levels have continued to break records. So, clearly, something must be done.

Balancing the workload

Sticking with that ZenBusiness study for a moment, let's look at the underlying cause of managerial stress. According to this survey, it's difficulty maintaining work/life balance. That was the answer given by 45% of managers. That means it shouldn't be underestimated as one of the challenges for new managers.

Again, there's no magic bullet solution here. But new managers can save themselves a lot of future headaches by learning what they can and can't delegate. That way, they can take some of the pressure off. On top of that, it can mean giving employees a certain level of autonomy. And that's one of the biggest shows of trust a manager can give.

Aside from delegation, managers also need healthy boundaries. Managers doing overtime is fair enough, considering they expect it from staff. But leading by example cuts both ways. Taking care to mind one's limits shows employees that self-care should be encouraged.

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How a weekly check-in reduces challenges for new managers

Those are some of the key challenges for new managers to tackle in your business. And it's HR's job to help them along the way. Fortunately, that's where an employee check-in can make all the difference in the world.

Check-ins develop personal dialogues

Busy managers can be at risk of losing that personal touch. And it's quite a huge loss, considering the difference it can make. Even if it's asynchronous, a weekly check-in means managers are talking to their employees regularly. Even better, these are weekly opportunities to get staff on-side by giving them recognition.

Managers will quickly build a clear image of what their team members are like. They'll know the strengths of their employees, as well as how to support them, and what they want out of their careers. And, in the end, that's what employees need. A boss who will take a personal interest in them and their development.

Employee check-ins build trust

With trust from employees far from guaranteed, building a rapport is one of the immediate challenges for new managers of any stripe. There may not be any shortcuts. But active communication is about as fast-acting as any solution gets.

Every week, managers can use check-ins to engage their staff. So, every week, they have the chance to listen to the concerns raised by their team. And every time that happens is an opportunity for managers to build trust by having their employees' backs.

And, of course, trust goes both ways. It's not just about winning over employees. Our check-in includes weekly goal-tracking. That means managers get regular progress reports from all their staff. It's the ideal thing to curb those pesky micromanaging habits.

A light-touch check-in helps new managers navigate challenges

As we've already pointed out, being a good manager means taking on a lot of responsibilities. It's vital that HR find a way to take some of the load off. And that's why we're recommending an employee check-in.

Unlike virtually every other performance management tool, check-ins have almost no time commitment. So that's one less thing to worry about scheduling. Managers can roll that time back into their other responsibilities, and save 1:1s for the bigger conversations.

Regular check-ins even make performance review season less of a headache. And that's no mean feat. This is because check-ins are their own documentation. All a manager and employee have to do before a review meeting is look back over their shared check-in history. That way, they're both fully informed and on the same page.

Check-ins help everyone track personal development

Performance review season isn't the only time check-in histories come in handy. They're a great way of keeping track of your long-term progress. Along with goal-tracking, managers can easily include personal development questions on someone's check-in.

Of course, this applies to managers too. Let's not forget they've also got their own line manager they're checking in with. But that's not the only way check-ins can support personal development.

If people in your organisation have access to training courses, they can track their progress in Weekly10. And that applies to management training too. Not only does this help new managers stay motivated to learn, it also helps HR to identify managerial skills gaps.

A weekly employee check-in is the foundation of more modern performance management practices. Download your fully editable Employee Check-in Template here 👇