Manager's #1 priority? Train their replacement.

One of our big mantras to clients is that a manager's primary job is to hire and train their replacement. Managers shouldn’t be threatened by this because it’s not something that happens right away. Developing talent takes time. In the end, it's also the ultimate compliment to a manager as well. But not all see it that way.


For example, let’s say the organization's President comes into your office this afternoon and says, “I want to put together a team to roll out our next product. It’s a high priority deliverable that requires confidentiality and I want our best performers on this. Can you give me a short list of names I should consider as soon as possible?"

"...a manager's primary job is to hire and train their replacement."

I'm sure at first glance, you’re thinking, “No problem. I can think of at least 3-4 people immediately.” 


But then reality sets in. If you or your managers haven’t been out there developing their talent, then they don’t have anyone to delegate to. Which means that if they were assigned to the President's project, the entire team suffers. That’s not a win for the manager, the overall department, or the entire organization.


But then look at it from the manager’s point of view too. The company tells them that they need to develop employees then fills their plate with all sorts of other projects. Developing employees often moves way, WAY down on the priority list. In most cases, managers are not only managing but also handling their own job duties and managing employees is secondary to that primary role.

Many organizations don’t want to create formal replacement or succession plans. I get it. More work, it's a lean organization, lack of resources, lack of bodies, it feels like you can't offer upward mobility depending on the organization's structure: I've heard it all before. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have any plans when it comes to future staffing. Holding everyone accountable for development can keep efforts moving in a positive direction, even when formal plans aren’t being made. 

The way organizations and managers can shift the focus back to employee development is by making it part of the manager’s performance expectations (i.e. part of their performance review). And let’s take it one step further, it should be a part of the a department's metrics as well. What kind of metric you ask?


HR should have a metric that reflects the ratio of employees who receive training versus development. I like to define training as learning related to the job you have and development as learning towards a future role. It should be easy to track – – when an employee attends a learning event, is it training or development? That will tell the organization how much talent development is taking place.  An LMS (Learning Management System) can also help track this quite easily. Another alternative is implementing technology to create a formalized succession and replacement plan. When HR is leading conversations 1-2x a year about the organization's talent pipeline with managers and senior leaders such as the President, expectations are set. It naturally becomes a bigger part of a culture of accountability. A manager that puts an employee on a 6-12 month track to become a manager or 1-2 years for future manager is now held accountable to ensure that employee is being developed over that time period as well.


Managers should be held accountable for giving their employees development opportunities. Managers should be able to set a goal of scheduling every employee for a certain number of development sessions each year. My guess is that, right now, employees are asked to complete a minimum number of training hours each year. Extend that to include a minimum number of development hours as well.


Organizations could take this one step further and ask employees to identify one area of development they would like to learn more about during the upcoming year. It could be a goal that managers and employees agree upon either during a 1:1 or performance review time. Not only does this help the organization develop future talent but it can begin a conversation about where employees would like to be (from a career perspective) in the years to come.


In today’s job market, it’s possible that the generation of candidates being hired need training and development. In fact, they expect demand it and are quick to move on when organizations do not set aside resources for this purpose. Effective talent management and development is the key to future organizational growth and success.