Everything You Need to Know About Managers, Management Skills and Management Training

What is Management?

Business enterprises, non-profits, educational institutions, and other organizations rely on management to drive results and sustain operations. The career site Indeed offers this definition of management:

The coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal. Such administration activities include setting the organization’s strategy and coordinating the efforts of staff to accomplish these objectives through the application of available resources.”

While management is sometimes used synonymously with leadership, there are distinct differences in meaning. At its core, leadership involves more strategic actions, focusing on “inspiring and guiding individuals or teams toward a shared vision,” says The Economic Times. In contrast, management centers on more tactical activities—achieving an organization’s goals by “organizing resources and executing tasks efficiently.”

Managers are Everywhere

Managers are individuals who take on the responsibilities of management – they oversee or control entire organizations, portions of organizations (business units or specific functions, such as human resources (HR), learning and development (L&D), or finance), work teams, and/or individual employees. Managers are critical to organizational success because they are the closest links to workers whose jobs drive business results. It is managers who must engage those employees, guide their efforts, oversee their growth, ensure their well-being, and see that work gets done.

According to the most recent estimate (2023) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some 10,495,770 people are employed in management occupations nationwide (up from 7.9 million in 2020). So it isn’t difficult to imagine that there are many different kinds of managers. BLS lists about three dozen overall categories of management positions, plus an “other” designation to address managers who work outside the standard groupings.

Managers work across all sorts of organizations in public, private, governmental, and non-profit settings. Further, they can be found at all company levels: in top or executive ranks; in middle management; and at lower, supervisory, or frontline levels.

Management Jobs Are Expected to Increase
But Lack Diversity

In the decade from 2022 to 2032, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in management positions will grow faster than the average for all positions, with about 1.1 million job openings per year.

Latest figures from BLS (2023) confirm that males remain more likely than females to be employed in management (53% versus 47%, respectively). However, the data reflects movement since 2021, when the proportions were 59% males and 41% females.

Racial and ethnic diversity continues to lag in management occupations. Three quarters of managers are white (76%) versus significantly lower numbers of Black/African American (13%), Asian (7%), and Hispanic or Latino (19%) managers.

What Does Management Style Mean?

Sometimes, managers are described by other characteristics as well. Primarily, those descriptions focus on management style, which simply refers to the ways in which managers approach their work. The language may vary, but the general traits tend to be consistent.

For instance, the online business resource AllBusiness.com describes seven types of managers, dubbing them problem solving, pitchfork (controlling), pontificating, presumptuous, perfect (very capable), passive, and proactive.

Similarly, business and financial services firm American Express lists such styles as autocratic, authoritative, pacesetting, democratic, coaching, affiliative, and laissez-faire. While the verbiage differs, terminology from AllBusiness.com, American Express, and other sources generally describe comparable approaches.

What Do Managers Do?

More than 100 years ago, French management theorist Henri Fayol noted five core functions of management which remain widely cited and accurate descriptors of managers' central roles today.

Briefly explained, those manager roles include:

  • Planning - Determining appropriate organizational objectives and the strategies and resources necessary to accomplish those goals.
  • Organizing - Creating working relationships among employees that facilitate performance of the tasks necessary to achieve organizational goals.
  • Commanding or Leading - Crafting a vision for an organization and applying influence and communication skills to engage and inspire employees to pursue that vision.
  • Coordinating or staffing - Sourcing and hiring the employees who make up organizational workforces.
  • Controlling - Ensuring that processes are in place to measure efforts, gauge success, drive performance improvement, and inform organizational decision-making

Managers may perform some or all of the five roles, and certainly many duties and tasks must be performed within each of those areas. Depending on their employing organizations and job functions, they may take on other roles as well. 

Critical Skills for Managers

With so much to accomplish for organizations, managers require extensive skills and capabilities to execute their jobs successfully. Those skills can vary considerably based on such factors as organizational size, complexity, industry, objectives, workforce characteristics, location, and more. 

It is also important to note that required skills can change rapidly because of the unpredictable nature of today's world. For example, shifts in work models (on-site, remote, hybrid combination of the two) job structures, and workforce expectations due to the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced and reshaped manager skill demands significantly since the outbreak.

Even with wide variation across (and within) organizations in the skills managers need to succeed, there is agreement that a number of important fundamental capabilities are necessary for most managers now and in the next few years. While some are hard skills -- those directly related to specific jobs, such as technical or computer know-how -- most are soft skills, or people skills -- the abilities needed to effectively interact with and lead others. 

The American Management Association lists just six skills “that make a great manager:”

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Finance
  • Project Management

Career site Teal identifies these “most important general manager skills:”

  • Relationship-building
  • Developing others
  • Leading change
  • Inspiring others
  • Thinking critically
  • Communicating clearly
  • Establishing accountability

Many other organizations have published lists of skills that are integral to managers’ success. Some additional in-demand skills include demonstrating respect, planning, organization, persuasion, trust, emotional intelligence, decision-making, project management, ability to provide honest feedback, conflict resolution, empathy, virtual team leadership, meeting facilitation, and many more. 

Why Is Management Training Important?

“A lack of formal, consistent manager training can lead to poor experiences for managers and the employees who report to them,” warns business leader Melissa Miller in Forbes. She adds that managers who don’t receive training often resort to emulating their own former managers who, themselves, may have gone untrained and provided poor examples of appropriate leadership.

Organizations that invest in training for managers at all levels can benefit in many ways. A few examples include:

  • Better performance by both managers and the employees they supervise
  • Enhanced engagement and retention of managers
  • Stronger support for execution of organizational objectives
  • Improved overall organizational performance and stronger bottom line results

Increasing Responsibilities Make Manager Training Critical



Managers who report increased numbers of direct reports



Managers who report increased complexity in their jobs



Managers whose job responsibilities exceed what they can handle effectively



HR leaders who believe in the effectiveness of their investments in manager training

Sources: Gartner Survey, Gartner HR Focus

Effective manager training can also help organizations mitigate risks associated with unqualified people leaders, such as: potential legal issues, harmful effects on employee engagement, negative impacts on organizational culture, and increased turnover.

Despite having numerous reasons to invest in training for their people managers, many organizations don’t follow through, or the training provided doesn’t meet managers’ needs. Fast Company reports that 85% of new managers receive no training at all for their positions, and calls those who step into people leadership with no preparation “accidental managers.” 

Moreover, SHRM revealed that more than four in 10 employees blame work-related stress on untrained and unprepared managers. Further, 34% of those workers say they want to leave their jobs because of such managers; and 31% say that unprepared managers caused them to lose confidence in their organizations.

Core Management Training: Content Topics and Barriers to Success

Training for managers should begin before those individuals take on management roles so that they feel ready to lead from day one.

Specific content for management training programs must reflect the needs, objectives, and culture of an organization, in addition to the fundamental knowledge and skills required to manage people effectively. It must also align with the performance expectations of specific management jobs.

Some manager training content examples:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Change management
  • Team-building
  • Creating respectful workplace culture
  • Coaching
  • Delegation
  • Planning
  • Accountability
  • And many more

Despite general agreement on the most important types of content, training for managers often falls short of success. Key reasons manager training fails:

  • Lack of consistency – in timing, content, and other key aspects
  • Training focuses on management theory to the exclusion of actionable content
  • Training doesn’t begin before participants start management jobs
  • No accountability to apply training in daily work
  • Lack of dedicated time for management training 
  • Training managers is not an organizational priority
  • Managers fail to take responsibility for their development
  • Training programs aren’t engaging
  • Training content is too generic to be relevant and effective
  • Learning and development staff lack time to create effective training
  • Lack of training measurement and follow-up
Sources:  Forbes, LinkedIn

From one organization to the next, there can be many other reasons that manager training proves less effective than companies desire. However, Forbes reminds L&D professionals that development for people leaders really relies on a few foundational elements: “At the core, manager training is about nurturing behavioral changes. By investing in manager training and ensuring that managers consistently apply what they learn, company leaders can create happier, healthier workforces.”

Managers hold some of the most business-critical positions in organizations today, and their knowledge and skills can mean the difference between a workforce of engaged, creative, productive employees and those who are desperate to flee incompetent, poorly trained supervisors. Effective training for managers is the solution in which top companies wisely invest.

Atana's behavior-based approach drives measurable change in manager behaviors and attitudes through engaging content and embedded behavioral questions.  Contact us to request a demo of the Atana Insights dashboard.

Recommended Training Programs

Atana provides proven training courses in many key areas. Below are trailers from a few of our most popular programs.  Sign up to see full previews (it's free, quick and easy).

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