31 July 2015 14:20:16 IST

To succeed, everyone must be in the loop

Inclusive communication is key to cracking the logjam

The easy stuff is quite often the hard stuff. From the perspective of Falcon Executive Leadership Council (FELC) members, the management trainee programme is a critical initiative and they are committed to its success. It cannot, however, be assumed that every manager on the team will display the same level of understanding and enthusiasm.

As these are managers who will work with the trainees on a day-to-day basis, it is essential that they are completely on board.

Typically, in launching (or re-launching) a management trainee list, the first issue would be to decide if the approach would be ‘big bang’ or through a ‘pilot programme’. Both the firm’s managers and the trainees must feel the firm is serious about the programme.

The first indication of this is the size of the trainee batch. A rule of thumb is that a batch size of 15 would help the trainees feel like they make up a strong cohort. If that is a sizeable proportion — over 5 per cent — of the firm’s managerial cadre, it makes no sense to call it a ‘pilot programme’.

Having agreed on the ‘big-bang’ approach, Vanchi and Raghav should focus on the other areas to be addressed strongly and directly. These are:

The influx of a sizeable chunk of fresh management graduates is bound to evoke different reactions among the senior managers. The majority of them are likely to be concerned, if not worried.

Insecurities

Those in the middle of the performance band may be concerned about how their own opportunities might be impacted.

Top management will have to address issues relating to medium-term career progression for high-potential managers. For others, a combination of compensation and career progression issues may have to be considered.

Accountability

It is not enough to say that the senior leadership is backing the programme. It is also not fair to hold an HR manager (or even the head of HR) solely accountable for the programme’s success.

At every stage, managers at different levels must be identified as being accountable for a small part of the programme. It could be that the senior manager, dealer development, is accountable to ensure that the trainees learn about the process of dealer appointments as well as collecting feedback from the trainees about how well that process is being followed. Identifying and properly assigning such individual responsibilities is the challenge for the HR team.

Maybe there is nothing wrong with the way things are done now. But it is not surprising if the newcomers have fresh ideas and expectations about how things should be.

Taking a look at the infrastructure with fresh eyes will help the top management handle expectations realistically.

Communication

All too often, it is taken for granted that the details of the management training programme will be conveyed through the firm’s communication framework. This may be able to handle business-as-usual, but this is an unusual initiative.

It will, therefore, need to be communicated differently. The programme structure and the expectations of how to handle various situations also needs to be conveyed clearly. The framework should cover scheduled sessions with the trainees as well, ideally handled by both HR and line managers.

Faced with the attrition of four trainees, Vanchi’s first priority should be to ensure that no one else quits, and then to make sure the programme goes on successfully. Actions will need to be taken with managers as well as the trainees to accomplish this. Possible actions Vanchi could take are:

Quickly identify dynamic senior managers who are willing and able to informally mentor the remaining trainees and pair them with each other.

Ensure that these senior managers are well-informed about the programme structure and evaluation criteria.

This will enable direct communication of expectations and targets to the trainees and will help resolve the bureaucratic bottlenecks in decision-making

Ensure that every member of the HR team is adequately briefed about the training programme and that there is one person (other than Vanchi) who supports the programme. All HR team members should have a common protocol of handling questions regarding the programme, so as to facilitate better understanding and commitment to quick resolution.

Break down accountability at various levels and ensure that division of responsibility takes place across managers. That will spread awareness of not only the training programme, but also of expectations from the management trainees.

Provide feedback to the trainees on how they can create a positive impact if they are more tactful in expressing their opinions or advocating changes in the process.

Explain to them how leaders should be able to get things done, even without formal authority, by influencing the various stakeholders. For the trainees, it would be an incomparable learning experience if they can turn around a neutral, if not hostile, audience into a receptive and appreciative one through their people skills.