WorkComp Advisory
newsletter archive case studies articles

From employee to manager:
Sound HR practices reduce Workers’ Compensation exposures

Whether you have five employees or 50,000, seasoned HR executives or not, sound HR practices can go a long way in controlling Worker’s Compensation costs. Front line managers are key to an effective Workers’ Compensation program, yet often an excellent employee is promoted to manager with disastrous results.

Our partner, HR That Works, offers the following suggestions to make sure you are bringing the best people into management positions:

1. Don’t choose managers based solely on their product knowledge or seniority.
Many companies take their best contributors or employees with greatest longevity and turn them into managers, making the dangerous assumption that there is some kind of natural progression. Yet, technical skills and longevity seldom equate with managerial competence. Managerial skills require competencies all their own. Define these competencies for your company with your leadership team and/or profiling the best of your existing managers and test potential managers. Determine if they have held leadership positions in other settings – volunteer, sports, church, etc. and what they observed and learned from the experience.

2. Don’t assume that the person really wants the job.
Studies show that more than 50% of all employees do not want their boss’s job. Always start by asking and not assuming if someone is interested in a promotion.

3. Define how their performance will be assessed.
Clearly define the benchmarks that will be used to evaluate performance. Describe the process for feedback. Employees who are promoted to manager should not be basing their performance on reviews from subordinates.

4. What will be done if they don’t succeed?
The way to avoid ill feelings and the loss of a valuable employee is to talk before the promotion about what happens if they don’t succeed.

5. Help them understand that they are responsible to their employees, not for their employees.
Because of their technical expertise, promoted employees often find themselves doing the job of their subordinates. It’s important to help them understand how to deal with employees who are constantly asking for assistance.

6. Help them understand the distinction between being a “buddy” and a “manager.”
One of the most difficult things for a manager to do is to confront a former peer. Clarify the guidelines and values in this area. Perhaps you don’t want them going out with former co-workers or there is a place they can go and speak with the employee privately.

7. Assign a mentor.
There is nothing like being able to speak with someone who has been there and done that. It does not have to be someone from the same department, just someone who will check in with them periodically and whom they can go to with a problem.

8. Train them.
A combination of in-house and outside training will help build confidence and skills.

9. Do it one step at a time.
Promoting someone into management is not an all or nothing proposition. Testing the waters by putting them in charge of a project or training session, or organizing a charity event is a good way to see how they perform. Evaluate their performance with them.

10. Teach them to dress the part.
If the position warrants it, when you give them a promotion, give $500 for a new wardrobe. Also share with them that profanity, off-colored jokes and similar conduct are a thing of the past.

11. Don’t give them more than seven people to manage.
Even an experienced manager finds it very hard to manage the performance of more than seven people at a time.

12. Reward and reinforce good managerial conduct.
Nurture your good managers and their good conduct. Don’t take it for granted.