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Unlocking the Potential of Frontline Managers

In difficult economic times, making employees more productive is crucial. But in many companies frontline managers are meant to communicate decisions, not to make them; to ensure compliance with policies, not to use judgment; and to oversee the implementation of improvements, not to contribute ideas. This system makes companies less productive, less agile, and less profitable.

Typically, frontline managers spend 30 to 60 % of their time on administrative work and meetings, and 10 to 50 % on non-managerial tasks (traveling, participating in training, conducting special projects...) and only 10 to 40 % actually managing frontline employees by, for example, coaching them directly. These shortcomings are rooted in the early days of the industrial revolution, when manufacturing work was broken down into highly specialized, repetitive, and easily observed tasks.

To unlock a team’s abilities, a manager at any level must spend a significant amount of time on two activities: helping the team understand the company’s direction and its implications for team members and coaching for performance. At best-practice companies, frontline managers allocate 60 to 70 % of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching.

The key is to help frontline managers become true leaders, with the time, the skills, and the desire to help workers understand the company’s direction and its implications for themselves, as well as to coach them individually. Such managers should have enough time to think ahead, to uncover and solve long-term problems, and to plan for potential new demands.

To read the full Mc Kinsey article, please click here.

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