In our work as people and culture consultants at Bright + Early, a common complaint we get from clients is a lack of consistency between different managers. While some folks were getting regular 1:1s and career planning sessions from their leaders, others, reporting to someone else, weren’t getting the same support. It wasn’t that the latter manager was a bad leader; many times, they’d managed people in a previous role, often to glowing reviews. What was going wrong?
Often, the standards of people management at their former workplace were just different, and no one at their current workplace had set any new expectations. While there’s lots to be said for developing one’s own management style, it shouldn’t be an entirely different experience (and growth trajectory) to work under one person versus another while at the same organization.Together, all the managers within one company are a team, and how they grow and support their people should come with universal expectations and have a unified look and feel. Manager training is great, but sessions are often ran sporadically, with material that isn’t customized to the organization’s processes, and lacking a written guide to go back and consult. Enter the manager toolkit, one of our greatest hacks to get leaders working in unison.
Similar to a good employee handbook, when we build a manager handbook, we lay out the following: what’s expected from managers at work, how to do those things successfully, how managers will be evaluated, and the core values that guide these decisions. Altogether we want the handbook to give managers the tools they need to be great at their jobs, and ensure they know how to use all the handy systems we’ve built for them. While each of these sections could warrant a guide unto itself, here’s a topline overview of what we typically include in a manager handbook.
This is where you define what management means in your organization.Are managers at your organization seen as mentors? Coaches? Servant leaders? Authoritative despots? Think of how you want team members to feel. Supported? Coached? Moving in unison towards a common goal? Each organization is unique. If you have inspiration like books, manifestos, or a particular methodology you subscribe to, you can provide a reading list here.
Adjusting to your role
Here we might provide some information and resources to help managers find their own management style and preferences, within the confines of the organization’s overall philosophy. Topics might include adjusting to leadership if they’re a new manager, and tips for productivity, which often feels different at this career stage (so many meetings!). You may also want to encourage managers to create something like a manager readme to share with their team.
Meetings and communication
Do you expect your managers to have 1:1s with their reports? What about performance reviews or career planning conversations? In this section, set clear expectations for how often these meetings should happen, how to do them well, and the steps in your internal processes for each (for example, a guide to how reviews work, what tools your organization uses for them, templates and tips for a great 1:1, etc).
In this section, we’ll generally cover things like how to make a new hire request, how the interview process works (and any tools used) and how things like negotiation or references work from a manager’s perspective. This is highly customized depending on the company.
After new team members are hired, what role do managers play in their onboarding process? Here, we’ll lay out the steps and expectations for a smooth first start, and any steps we expect the managers to facilitate. Check out our Bright + Early Guide to Onboarding.
Time off and absences
Team members will often go to their managers about taking time off, whether for a vacation, a sick day, or something like parental or medical leave. Here, we’ll cover things like how those request tools and approvals work.
Whether in the hiring process, reviews, or an employee-initiated raise request, managers need to be prepared to discuss pay. Here, we’ll generally provide company-specific guidance on what is and isn’t confidential, how to respond to negotiation or raise requests, and how to get changes and increases approved. We’ll also provide an overview of the company’s compensation cadence (when and how do increases happen?) and how to navigate and utilize any salary bands that might be in place.
For tips on building and communicating clear compensation, see our Guide to Compensation.
Here, we’ll include information about how to use the company’s career paths or role guides, and tips for how to discuss career growth and development for their team. This is a great place to link back to learning and development budgets, or provide some ideas on how managers can utilize mentorship, courses and advocacy to help their reports learn and grow.
One of the toughest things to adjust to in people management is giving and receiving feedback. To foster a culture of growth, teams must also have a culture of continuous feedback. We’ll often include tips on how and when to deliver both praise and constructive feedback, and because managers need to be receptive too, how to receive it.
Many of these tips can be found in our Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback
How do you want managers to handle team members who aren’t meeting expectations? In this section, we’ll often cover the basics of how to have those tough conversations in a motivating way, as well as tips on keeping high performers engaged as well. If your company uses performance improvement plans, or any other formal processes, you can outline them here.
What happens when someone quits? What if we need to let someone go? Philosophies, processes, and checklists (including who is responsible for what) are important to outline here.
Though we hesitate to include this as a separate line item (ideally, each organization strives to be inclusive in all areas of management), it’s worth having a section to call out how bias can influence different areas of management decision-making, and to provide a few worthy resources to help managers be more inclusive in their practice.
Here, we’ll cover important topics like how to respond to reports of violence and harassment, or other major violations of the organization’s code of conduct and policies. We’ll also include resources like our Guide to Managing Workplace Conflict.
How to work with HR
Every organization’s People team operates a little bit differently. How should managers utilize yours? As HR practitioners, we love when managers come to us for advice on dealing with a difficult situation, to practice a tough conversation, or to give feedback on a process we made.
How they’ll be evaluated
Everyone deserves clear expectations in their role. Is there a career path or role guide for how managers are evaluated? Will it be top down, or 360, what will be covered?
People managers aren’t born; it’s a skill requiring lots of coaching and practice. In this section, you can outline any available resources for leaders to level up. Do you have a slack channel or manager’s circle where leads can lean on each other? Do you offer access to any coaching or training programs? You can also include some links for those who want to sharpen their skills. Here are some of our favorites: