An assistant manager is a lower middle management role and reports directly to the general manager. She assists in evaluating the work performance of staff, must possess a general understanding of the work flow of the environment, and must present basic leadership skills as the "manager on duty" during the general manager's absence. The assistant manager role can be a great introductory position for hands-on learning about performance management and an important transition role for preparing staff for leadership positions of greater complexity.
When an Assistant Manager is Required
Sometimes there are several assistant managers accountable for specific areas in the environment (working under one general manager), and other times there are no assistant manager roles, depending upon the complexity of the workplace. Assistant managers abound in turnkey businesses and retail when the manager cannot be present all the time. A high school diploma is a minimum educational requirement, though in most cases some postsecondary education in human resources, marketing or business is needed, particularly if requisite experience is lacking.
Supervisory Experience and Transition
To become an assistant manager usually requires some supervisory experience with overseeing staff and work processes first. Often assistant managers are identified from within the the talent pool of existing staff in lower level supervisory roles such as a lead cashier or lead receiver. This type of internal promotion is common, yet it can be challenging for the unprepared. A newly promoted assistant manager should be mindful that transitioning from a peer position to management demands a change in communication style and rapport with staff.
The transition of accountability is also important. In her old role, the assistant manager may have been evaluated and rewarded based on her own personal contribution. Now as an assistant manager she will be evaluated less on what she personally contributes (though that will likely still be a factor) and more on the performance of the team around her. This alone should prioritize his work toward effective communication, staff training, development and growth.
Usually the assistant manager will have one portion of the workplace and staff as his own direct accountability. It could be the cash desk, payroll, repairs and maintenance or a specific section of the store if it's in a retail environment. After he has built up a period of time and expertise overseeing one area, he will likely rotate to other areas of the business operation to gain experience and knowledge. Doing so will prepare him for the next level: general manager.
Manager On Duty
In the general manager's absence, the assistant manager is expected to step into the GM role on an interim basis, providing leadership and accountability to the environment as a whole. Often, though, even if the general manager is present, overseeing the standard day-to-day business demands of the workplace is usually shared among the management team with the "manager on duty" role (MOD). Being the MOD means being able to respond to customer and staff demands and maintain the work-flow and standards of operation over the course of the day.
Experience in writing and conducting performance reviews with employees is valuable, but in most environments that accountability would fall ultimately upon the general manager. The assistant manager is usually expected to contribute comments and observations to an employee's appraisal without conducting the appraisal directly.
Keep in mind, though, that an assistant manager is also expected to learn and develop performance appraisal skills. The role is broad enough to allow both for a new assistant manager to start learning the appraisal process, and for a more seasoned assistant manager to evaluate and write staff appraisals and even deliver them to his own direct reports.