July 2, 2021

First Time Managers: How HR Can Support Them

First time managers face a steep learning curve. HR can provide training, mentoring and much more to support them

How HR Supports First Time Managers

- Make sure expectations are clear

- Show there is support available

- Use mentoring

- Provide opportunities for learning and development

- Provide guidance on conflict resolution

- Onboard first time managers onto software

- Offer tips on recruitment

- Train managers to set OKRs

First-time managers often feel imposter syndrome in their new role. We have fixed ideas about what leaders should be like – and not everyone fits this mould. We incorrectly view leadership as something innate – rather than something that can be taught. In this article, we’ll debunk this myth and provide ways HR can support new managers.

Most new managers are in their role because they are star individual contributors. Their technical skills and achievements shone through. Moving from an emphasis on personal success towards a role that requires you to provide guidance to others can be a tricky transition.

Harvard Business School Professor Linda A. Hill is an expert on budding managers. She argues that the transition into a supervisor role requires a psychological adjustment – thinking differently about your role in the organization. As she puts it, ‘Becoming a manager means learning to frame problems in ways that are much broader, more holistic, more long-term’.

First time managers and leadership

First-time managers move from focusing on just their own tasks – to setting tasks for a group, and creating a strategy for your team’s long term success. Needless to say, this is a steep learning curve. A training program directed by HR can make all the difference.

Why should you support first-time managers? Because managers count. They provide direction for their teams, and motivate employees with recognition and feedback. Our managers often determine our experience at a company. According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

With great managers, employees are more likely to feel committed to their work. You often see better collaboration on teams with supportive supervisors. This is all invaluable for an organization. First, we’ll offer some quick tips to first-time managers. Then, we’ll explore how HR teams can contribute.

Becoming a manager means learning to frame problems in ways that are much broader, more holistic, more long-term - Linda A. Hill

Tips for first-time managers

Firstly, if you have recently been hired for a supervisor role for the first time – congratulations! This is an incredible opportunity to expand your leadership skills and advance your career.

Here are a few quick tips as you get started in your new role:

  • Keep in touch with your supervisor for guidance

  • Seek out training from HR on key skills, from communication to conflict resolution

  • Use activities to get to know your new team

  • Delegate tasks effectively and set clear expectations from team members

  • Check in with your team daily

  • Schedule one on one meetings with team members to find out what motivates them

  • Speak to people who used to work in this role

  • Find a mentor

Next, we’ll provide our view of how HR can support new managers.

How HR can support first-time managers

Make sure expectations are clear

New managers need a clear line of sight as to what their new role will entail. Underline responsibilities like writing performance reviews and conducting one-on-one meetings with their team.

Meet with new managers. Provide a summary of their responsibilities for the next quarter. Invite questions about their new duties, and do not assume knowledge. If they are unsure about any of these, schedule a meeting to go over the details. Remember to clarify what decision-making powers they will have in this role. What needs to be confirmed with an executive first?

First Time Managers and Direction

Show there is support available

In their previous role, new managers may not have interacted much with HR. As a manager, issues will arise in which they will need HR’s support.

Not every first time manager is aware of this. Recruitment, compensation, annual leave and any employee complaints will need to go through HR as well as managers. Remind them that it’s best to raise concerns sooner rather than later.

Establish a working relationship between managers and HR from Day 1, and schedule follow up check-ins.

Also touch base with their supervisor. If you’ve ever been promoted to a management role, you might notice your supervisor offers less support than they used to. In reality, you need guidance from fellow leaders as you take on this role. HR should make sure that supervisors and higher-ups are available to offer a helping hand.


Role-models are powerful, they inspire us and show us what steps to take towards our goals. Mentoring can be a great way to develop managers. By meeting fellow leaders and hearing from them how they support their team, first-time managers will feel ready to take on the challenge.

You can either find an external mentoring program, or choose a higher-up in your organization to mentor new managers. Even better, you could find a leader who was once in a similar role to the one your new manager embarks on.

HR can support mentors to set SMART targets with their mentee. Invite participants to feedback on the program and how it has supported them.

Mentoring First Time Managers

Provide opportunities for learning and development

New managers face a steep climb to upskill into their new role. HR can support them by providing opportunities for ongoing development.

Micro-courses are informative and can make the first-time manager training program flexible. Focus on necessary skills, such as negotiation and communication.

Remember to prioritize continuous learning over one-off training events. Unless training is reinforced, managers will forget about it quickly. HR can create a training timescale, just as they would for an onboarding process, to ensure that first time managers get the consistent training they need.

Learning and development opportunities also help to engage new managers – as they see the role as a chance to broaden their horizons.

Tips for Training First Time Managers

Provide guidance on conflict resolution

Managers work towards creating a supportive and friendly work environment. However, they should also be prepared to respond professionally and with integrity when conflict does arise.

Many first-time managers will have little experience in conflict resolution. HR can provide guidance on best practices. For example, managers must remain impartial during workplace conflicts. They should bring the individuals involved together for a conversation, and help bring disagreements to a resolution.

Onboard first time managers onto software

Managers use a range of software, including for their people processes. HR can provide onboarding( for these resources, so new managers can make the most of them.

Knowing how to use software will help managers to stay organized and communicate clearly with employees.

Offer tips on recruitment

HR and managers usually work together on recruitment. Offer tips and tricks on how candidates can find the best candidates. It’s always useful when managers can spot skills gaps, so encourage them to keep track of this.

Make sure new managers are aware of what skills and experience are relevant to their team. HR can also offer training on reviewing CVs and applications, so that you can cooperate to find great new hires.

Train managers to set OKRs

New managers can be unsure of how to create a clear sense of direction for their team. They are moving from a laser focus on their own tasks to a need to understand the broader needs of the team. Setting goals as a team is the perfect way to ensure everyone is aligned.

OKRs are also a great way for managers to start delegating. Objectives are the ambitious targets set for the team. Key Results are the smaller targets that must be reached to that end. Any tasks set should push employees towards OKRs.

Employees have a sense of purpose as tasks are set with larger goals in mind. This promotes confidence in the manager’s strategy.

First Time Managers and OKRs

From First Time Managers to Leaders

Everyone has to start somewhere. Being a manager for the first time can be the most rewarding time in a person’s career. HR can support first time managers to grow in confidence and inspire their teams.

Create an open-door policy for managers and develop engaging, inspiring training programs. With a plan in place, you’ll turn first time managers into your company’s next leaders.

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