Ensuring managers cope with the influx of seasonal workers

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Written by Mary Clarke on 2 December 2014 in Opinion
Opinion

Focusing on strengthening the competency of middle managers will give retailers greater confidence, Mary Clarke says

It’s that time of year again where large retail chains are recruiting armies of temporary employees to cope with the additional customers.

To cope with the Christmas trading period, Amazon is hiring an additional 13,000 staff and Royal Mail is bringing in 19,000 temporary recruits. Aldi has also announced it will create a further 35,000 jobs over the course of the next eight years, signalling a £600 million expansion across the UK which will double the number of its employees.

This is good for the economy and the UK jobs market, and of course as customers, we can certainly sleep easier knowing our Christmas presents will arrive in time for the big day.

However, how firms manage sudden temporary arrivals can be a major concern for the senior management, across various industries.

Questions will be raised about how new employees will fit into existing teams; whether the onboarding process is robust enough to cope and if the recruitment processes are rigorous enough to find the right recruits. Also, is the company culture adaptable enough to embrace new and temporary employees?

Amazon and other retailers have been hiring seasonal workers for a number of years to cope with increased consumer demand. By now, these companies probably have robust recruitment and onboarding processes specifically designed for hiring seasonal workers.

Yet, there is still a glaring issue not only facing retailers, but industries across the UK, which is how well the managers can cope with additional pressures like this and if they are qualified, trained and proficient?

Managing thousands of temporary employees adds enormous pressure to the day job for managers who have to assimilate new staff into their teams and ensure these employees fit with the company’s culture. All this has to be done in a very short timeframe in order to get temporary workers up to speed with the business.

Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggests that many managers will be ill-equipped to deal with these kind of situations.

A July 2014 report from the CMI entitled, ‘The Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership[1]’ which looks at the skills needed for managers by 2020, highlighted that 71 per cent of UK manager are given inadequate or no training at all, especially in the early stages of their role.

The report also highlights that 37 per cent of UK managers feel current training is poor or non-existent and that many managers feel as though they have simply ‘fallen into’ their roles.

It also suggests that time wasted by poor management could be costing the UK economy £19 billion a year.

Whereas anyone can become a manager; becoming a ‘good’ manager very much depends on the standards set by the companies and the training given to them.

During key trading periods such as Christmas, senior management and executives need assurance that their managers are working to recognised professional standards and at the same time, fulfilling their management potential.

The CMI research suggests that just one in five managers have any recognised management qualification which is a worrying figure as  management and leadership qualifications don’t just increase people’s performance, they enhance their professional reputation and career prospects. 

Achieving a professional standard is a mark of approval and something that companies should be working towards.

The first step for companies to improve the performance and competency of their management is to gain better visibility and clarity around specific gaps in terms of skills, capabilities and confidence. This insight will shine a light on why managers might be falling short of achieving their full potential and the areas in which they need training or coaching.

One effective way of doing this is assessing the performance of their managers against National Occupational Standards and what the CMI regards as ‘good management practice’ using a management capability tool that we jointly developed with the CMI

The tool will help companies:

  • Rapidly assess each individual and identify specific areas for development, enabling training for managers to be highly specific and aligned to their needs
  • Report on the level results and recommendations for senior management.
  • Provide one to one feedback and coaching regarding areas for development.
  • Re-assess them to evidence progress and present outcomes back to them.

Focusing on strengthening the competency of middle managers will give retailers greater confidence and assurance that their seasonal staff will be effectively managed this Christmas. 

Ensuring a competent management team with the right skills to will not only ensure things go smoothly through the Christmas trading period, but also have a positive impact on existing teams and empower managers to fulfil their potential.

About the author

Mary Clarke is CEO of Cognisco

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