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Team Building

How to Train New Managers in a Remote Setting

July 15, 2022
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12 minutes

Training managers remotely comes with a unique set of challenges. Here's what we learned from interviewing 350 remote managers.

Lawrence Barker
Training managers remotely comes with a unique set of challenges. Here's what we learned from interviewing 350 remote managers.

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How to Train New Managers in a Remote Setting

You’ve probably heard someone say that, “People leave managers, not companies.” Bad managers aren’t the only reason people leave companies, but it’s absolutely true that every company needs effective managers to succeed long-term. That makes figuring out how to train managers in a remote setting a mission critical task for every human resources or people team.

Training new managers feels even harder when you’re a remote company.  

“The idea of training new managers outside a traditional office environment can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. What makes a good manager remains the same inside or outside the office,” says Abi Tyas Tunggal, co-founder at remote job board Himalayas.

While you shouldn’t feel intimidated, training new managers in a remote setting brings a unique set of challenges. For instance, remote managers need to be far more intentional about their communication, more careful about building trust, and more conscious of how and when they give feedback. 

Why is training new managers so important?

Think about the last time you tried to change a bad habit.

Whether it was biting your nails or snacking every time you leave your desk (guilty!), changing a bad habit is never easy. It’s often easier to prevent a bad habit from forming than it is to change an ingrained habit.

The same principle applies to management. You’ll find it’s often far easier to train new managers to lead in a healthy, effective way from day one than it is to coach them through changing their management practices. If you’re training someone who has never managed before, effective training sets them up for success. And if you’re onboarding an experienced manager who is new to your company, you want to make sure they understand the cultural norms and expectations within your organization.

In light of this, it’s no surprise that the 2022 Remote Manager Report found managers who led for the first time during the pandemic had an easier time with remote-based leadership than those who had experience before the pandemic. These first-time managers formed effective remote management behaviors from the beginning.

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There are plenty of other reasons training new managers matters:

  • Managing requires different skills than being an individual contributor. It’s not smart to assume new managers will easily figure out how to manage effectively. They need to be equipped with the tools to do a very different job. 
  • Managers have a big impact. Your employees interact with their direct manager more than any other leader in your company. Investing in new managers has ripple effects throughout the entire org chart.
  • Good management makes you stand out. In 2021, employees’ perceptions of their employers dropped significantly. Companies are reeling from unparalleled turnover, and those who train great managers and have good reputations stand out. 

Training managers has a cascading effect throughout your business. Invest in developing great managers and you’ll see a positive impact throughout every area of your business. You’ll also have more engaged managers, which means you’ll have an easier time engaging your employees.


How to train managers


Training managers is a proactive exercise. It enables you to get ahead of potential problems and to equip leaders with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. 

And management is rife with challenges. 

Check out the full 2022 Remote Manager Report for more stats on remote work.

Remote managers report that building relationships and trust is their biggest struggle, with preventing and addressing burnout being a close second.  When you build a new manager training program, you’re getting ahead of these issues and reducing the likelihood they’ll have a negative impact on your business. 

There are three overarching steps to creating any kind of training, including new manager training:

  1. Deciding which topics to cover in your training
  2. Figuring out the best format for each training topic
  3. Setting up a feedback loop and iterating

Deciding which topics to cover in your training

The topics you cover in training will depend on your company’s current stage and challenges. However, there are some topics that are always worth considering when training new managers. 

Understanding how to set goals and measure success

New managers need to understand what it looks like to succeed in their roles. Being a successful manager requires a different mindset than being an individual contributor.  

Abi Tyas Tunggal says, “New managers need to understand their individual work is no longer what matters. Instead, their job is now to increase the output of their team and the teams they influence.” 

He recommends starting by teaching new managers the core concepts of management as defined in Andy Grove's High Output Management:

  1. You can apply the principles and discipline of manufacturing to management
  2. Work is done by teams not individuals
  3. Teams only perform well when each member is working at their best

“Once they understand these concepts and that their priority is maximizing output, you can start teaching remote-specific skills,” says Tyas Tunggal. “This includes things like asynchronous communication, working across time zones, and documenting by default.”

Learning proactive communication


One of the starkest differences between remote and in-person management is how communication happens.

“It’s much harder to manage a team remotely than in person as you’re limited with the amount of organic communication you have,” says Agnieszka Goulin, Head of People at Spacelift. “Ensuring seamless communication is always our priority. Communication has to be proactive no matter the tool.”

New managers of remote teams have to learn ways to proactively reach out. Although it can feel awkward, they need to err on the side of over-communicating so that their direct reports can always be in the loop. Building out channels for asynchronous communication—using tools like Slack or Asana—is also a must. 

Leaving comments in a project management tool like Asana is a great example of asynchronous communication. Source.

Building relationships with their team


Your leadership training should give new managers the tools they need to build healthy relationships with their direct reports (and others).

This includes skills like team building and fostering trust. New managers need to get to know the unique members of their teams, understanding their strengths, goals, and areas for improvement. 

“Managers need to be able to inspire and motivate their team members, even when they are not physically present,” says Omer Usanmaz, CEO and Co-Founder of Qooper

It’s impossible to do all these things if you can’t create psychological safety within your team.


Leading effective performance reviews


Performance reviews often get a bad rap. 

Yes, if done poorly they can feel like a waste of time or have a negative impact on employee morale. But effective performance reviews are a game changer, and they need to be empathetic, specific, and actionable. 

Managing performance reviews isn’t something that comes naturally. It’s hard to balance providing feedback while leaving enough room for the employee to self-assess and figure out their development path. Your training program should help new managers learn how to conduct meaningful reviews that align with your organization’s core values.

Figuring out the best format for each training topic


Once you’ve nailed down the topics you’ll cover, it’s time to think about how you’ll deliver your training. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Experiment with group size and interactivity. You can pair people up, let them work on tasks individually, or go for larger groups if the topic is appropriate. Smaller groups can foster more vulnerability and connections, so it’s often a good idea to keep groups small (we’d recommend less than 10 people). While asynchronous training can be great, including some in-person interactions also helps give every new manager relationships with peers they can rely on after training ends. 
  1. Use a variety of different tools and techniques. A remote setting allows you to get creative with how you deliver training. While the options can seem overwhelming, a good place to start is with three tools: an asynchronous training tool (like Rise.com or Google Classroom), a live or synchronous tool (like Zoom), and a tool for tracking progress (like Trello). 
  1. Prioritize retention and documentation. We’re all busy, and retaining information is hard. Quizzes and exercises are great tools that you can use to check knowledge retention and make training practical. Documenting key information so it’s easily accessible later helps ensure nothing gets missed.

An onboarding schedule in Trello. Source.

Setting up a feedback loop and iterating


Training is never perfect, so you should build in methods to gather feedback from new managers. Use this feedback to iterate on your training and improve future training sessions.

You can gather feedback in many different ways, both direct and indirect:

  • Conduct one-on-one meetings with managers after they complete training
  • Use tools like Typeform to run quick surveys
  • Monitor your new managers’ wellbeing in Kona to ensure they aren’t struggling (or to intervene quickly and provide help when needed)

Feedback is only useful when it’s acted upon, so be sure to consider and take action upon feedback you receive. 

Training managers is high leverage work


Investing in your people is fundamental to building a great culture and retaining employees. Creating great processes to train managers is a vital investment that pays significant dividends. You’ll feel the positive impact of solid new manager training across every layer of your company. 

Meet the Author

Lawrence Barker

Lawrence uses his decade of customer experience leadership to create content for B2B SaaS companies that love their customers. He writes on a broad range of topics, all with the aim of helping human-centered companies attract the right customers and empower them to be successful.

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