The secret sauce: getting your strategy executed

Written by Alistair Gordon 13 Sep 2019

As an HR Director, you had a seat at the table when current organisational strategy was forged. You lead the people and culture strategy, one that requires the human components of your organisation to be able to deliver on strategy.

Among these human components, frontline managers are a critical group. They typically make up 60 per cent of your leadership group. Frontline leaders directly supervise four in every five of your employees. It is the frontline leadership who must motivate and direct their teams to execute strategy. Do more with less. Become more customer centric. Innovative.

Frontline managers have exceptional leverage on the performance of your organisation. How they feel about the senior leadership of the organisation, and how much conviction and understanding they have of the organisation’s strategy, hugely influences the way they lead their frontline teams. If engaged, energised, and skilled, they communicate this to employees. The result is an organisation that can successfully execute strategy.

We all know that getting frontline managers engaged, energised, and skilled is not achieved via the production of a glossy PowerPoint deck describing the corporate strategy.

The majority of these frontline managers are millennials, and in 2020, 75% of the employees they lead will be millennials too.

What frontline leaders (and millennials) crave is personal development. They want to grow and learn new things, and to be able to do new things. They want to be able to lead their frontline team very effectively. Research studies suggest that less than one in ten frontline managers get leadership development support. New data is also emerging that tells us that those frontline managers that do get training don’t like the way it is delivered.

Traditional methods of frontline management courses, such as workshops which are heavy on theory and assessment of content retained, but light on practice, involve lots of listening and not much doing, and are less and less appreciated by frontline leaders. Rather than being offered generic advice, today’s millennial frontline management want programs that offer customised in-field support – that is, help them solve the immediate management problems they face today.

Most organisations in 2015 involved only a small percentage of frontline manager population in frontline management courses. These were typically traditional frontline leadership programs. Such traditionally designed frontline management courses are costly - between $3k and $5k per leader trained. It is very important to note that they are designed by learning and development teams who play to their own strengths and policy biases.

Smart organisations have already started doing it differently. Increasingly, people and culture leaders are demanding that many more frontline leaders are trained, for the same or a smaller budget, with designs that reflect the changed needs and learning habits of their frontline managers.

This re-invention won’t be led by the learning and development teams unless People and Culture Directors insist on new thinking and new designs. Typically, to get the change made, HR Directors will leverage new approaches being developed around the world that are reducing the cost of frontline management courses by half, but doubling the effectiveness of that training. These new models make leadership learning personal, just-in-time, episodic, social, and customisable by those being developed. This is the new secret sauce of frontline leadership development.

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