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Front line managers make the difference

Businesses all want to grow, but how many do so by trying to improve the lot of their front line managers (FLMs)? Research has shown that the effect FLMs could have on the bottom line is greater than many might think. So what should employers do to ensure that they get the very best from their FLMs?

FLMs, also known as supervisors, team leaders, and project managers, usually comprise the first level of management in the workplace. Often performing or helping with the same tasks as those they supervise, they also guide and oversee their teams and monitor performance.

More recently, many have taken on other HR duties too, such as looking after the welfare of their team, undertaking counselling, and handling discipline and attendance issues. They may also provide a key communication link between senior management and employees, playing a crucial role in introducing and implementing an organisation's policies and procedures.

Holding such a pivotal role, FLMs can have a massive influence on employee attitudes and behaviour. Research shows that employees' performance and attitudes are often associated with how well they get on with their manager and how they perceive the example an FLM sets when implementing policies.

Successful FLMs encourage positive behaviour by being receptive to problems, showing empathy, giving credit for work well done and constructive guidance where it could be improved. Above all, they need to be consistent, fair and flexible in the treatment of their team.

Without the support of their own managers, FLMs are at risk of becoming 'piggy in the middle' stuck between the demands of their seniors and the problems of their team. They need to be able to discuss issues with upper management and be involved with decision making, while being given enough time to perform their many duties with employees.

It takes training to develop the necessary interpersonal skills that FLMs need to deal with sensitive and emotive issues that invariably come up in any workplace.

Acas can provide such training, offering courses on Skills for supervisors, Having difficult conversations, Performance management and many other areas of People management. Acas also can give help and guidance on Growing your business and keeping it simple, including detailed advice on getting the most from front line managers in the Advisory booklet - Front line managers.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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