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Why Your Managers Aren’t Developing Frontline Workers

Your organization is committed to investing in developing and upskilling frontline workers. It's understood that you need to build bench strength to move people into open mid-level positions and hold on to high-performers. Yet, employee retention and engagement levels are suffering. Why? According to new research from i4cp and The Aspen Institute, many organizations don’t measure supervisor effectiveness at developing frontline workers at all, and those that do are measuring the wrong things.

Among employers that do measure, i4cp research shows that the two most popular measurements are:

  • Frontline worker retention (44%)
  • Individual productivity improvements (39%)America's Frontline Workers

But our research found that only two measurements correlate to market performance:

  • Number of workers taking advantage of tuition assistance benefits (28%)
  • Number of workers advancing to higher-skilled and higher-paid positions: 7%

Managers and supervisors are in the best positions to influence frontline employees to take advantage of development activities and the company provided programs that aid in that endeavor. While only one-third (34%) of organizations reward line leaders who do this via compensation and/or promotion, these practices are 2.5X more prevalent at high-performance organizations than at low-performance organizations.

From our experience in working with leading organizations, there are four common reasons why managers are not developing frontline workers:

  • They have too many conflicting responsibilities and limited bandwidth;
  • They are not provided with the proper training to carry out these activities to the extent required;
  • They don't receive the support from HR needed to play their role in the process; and,
  • They are not incentivized or held accountable for these activities in performance appraisals.

HR professionals can make a real impact on the business by providing the training, time, and other supportive resources necessary to help get managers engaged in talent activities and deliver on commitments to upskill frontline workers. The return on this effort should deliver real business value in the forms of higher employee engagement, stronger retention and a workforce ready to move into mid-level skill positions as they open up in the organization.

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Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin is the chief research officer at i4cp. A highly sought-after international keynote speaker on all aspects of human resources and talent management, Kevin has been recognized as a “Top 100 HR Influencer” by HR Examiner, is a renowned keynote speaker, and has been published in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and HBR.