How Can We Close the Skills Gap for New Managers?

image 5

Are your organizations newest managers struggling to in their new roles? You’re not alone. Management coach Victor Lipman recently wrote in Forbes that the transition to a first-time management role may be the most difficult in business ,  and it’s certainly tougher than the move to the C-Suite. That’s because, he says, new managers are frequently sent into the ring with little training or preparation, uncertain what the new role requires.

Entry level employees are normally trained to be individual contributors, not people managers. Maybe that’s why, as Gallup reported recently, less than half of US employees are engaged at work. Lipman conjectures that, if new managers were properly trained, that number would increase significantly.

So what is it that new managers are missing and, given limited resources and time, how can we start to close that gap?

Key Skills Gaps for New Managers

It’s not the technical skills or knowledge new managers are most often missing. They succeeded in their previous roles because they’d excelled in those areas. Instead, it’s the soft skills—such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication—that make someone an effective team captain, able to lead, inspire, and delegate to ensure that not only do the wheels keep turning but the team remains engaged, excited, and eager to grow and innovate within the organization.

Though these skills have traditionally been considered bonuses rather than requirements, research has repeatedly shown that soft skills are as important as, if not more important than “hard skills,” especially as more of our day-to-day work becomes automated.

And of those soft skills, the most important—and hardest to find—is communication.

Communication is the foundation of leadership. It’s critical to keeping employees engaged, sharing the company’s vision, kicking off new initiatives, and building a reputation both within and outside the office. And a new manager who lacks strong communication skills will find his new leadership role to be a struggle, at best.

What Does It Mean to Be Proficient in Communication?

At its most basic, effective communication means being able to impact the audience in the way you intended, influencing them to think, believe, or act in a certain way. This looks different for every communicator in every situation, but here are a few likely priorities for new managers:

  • Building trust and credibility with their employees
  • Communicating clearly about new initiatives and expectations
  • Developing the authenticity that will convince team members their new leaders are in this with them
  • Demonstrating confidence in their abilities and their opinions

An audience’s perception of a leader—all these characteristics and more—is built not only on the language the leader uses but also on the posture, gestures, and vocal inflections that support that language. Body language speaks volumes about how a speaker feels about a message, and how the audience should feel as a result.

When it comes to developing communication proficiency, there’s a lot to consider and a lot to work on. Unfortunately, traditional communication coaching is prohibitively expensive for all but the top leaders at many companies, and its methods are too subjective to determine clear, measurable ROI.

Fortunately, advancements in machine learning and AI mean communication—and other soft skills—training for new managers is within arm’s reach.

How Can AI Help?

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that many companies are already relying on bots to help new managers keep up, providing tips and reminders on how to run an office or collecting data and insights on corporate culture, for example. But let’s go a level deeper and look at how AI can help new leaders really build and internalize the skills that are critical for success in their current and future roles. What would an AI communication coach look like?

Thanks to the power of vocal and facial analysis, natural language processing, and machine learning, we know exactly what that would look like 

The Quantified platform uses these technologies to provide personalized, data-driven communication feedback, custom development curricula, and progress tracking to new managers—and any employees, for that matter—and gives upper-level leaders the organizational insights they need to see what’s working and where management, on the whole, could still stand to improve.

How does it work? Users upload video communication samples, and our platform analyzes hundreds of visual, verbal, and vocal communication signals, returning scores on nearly thirty critical attributes of great communication. But we know scores without context aren’t effective. The platform also benchmarks each user’s score against peers, top performers, and competitors, and it pairs the data with custom tailored recommendations, resources, and exercises designed to drive improvement in key development areas to help each user achieve his or her communication and leadership goals. Once users have worked through these resources, they can submit additional videos to track progress and further hone their action plans.

And the best part is, though this process is very similar to what one could expect from a traditional communication coach, the fact that it’s AI based means its scalable, enabling more companies to provide their new and upcoming managers with world-class training at significantly lower costs.

Whatever challenges your organization is facing—employee disengagement, lackluster reputation, or subpar work—we’d be willing to bet poor communication is playing a significant role. Imagine what your office could look like if every manager had the communication training she needed to effectively lead and inspire her team?