Effective Employee Development Requires Manager’s Involvement

Companies need additional strategies to recruit and keep employees as the costs of the Great Resignation continue to rise. One obvious way is to provide more training and development – according to a LinkedIn poll, 94% of employees stated they would stay with their workplace if it invested in their growth.

The development of remote labor, on the other hand, complicates matters. Respondents in Training Magazine’s 2021 Training Industry Report stated that “getting people involved in remote training” was their largest difficulty.

Some businesses are attempting to address this issue with improved technology. New delivery formats, such as cohort-based courses, and technology, such as virtual reality, have the potential to greatly improve the efficacy of remote training.

However, involving managers may be a more direct answer to staff engagement. According to a recent Gallup poll, “at least 70% of the difference in team engagement is explained by the quality of the manager or team leader.” This approach appears to be frequently missed – most managers express skepticism about the effectiveness of their Learning and Development team.

Companies should fix this. Here are five basic but effective strategies to help managers take a more active role in staff training and development:

Allow managers to tell you what they expect.

Managers have a great understanding of the abilities that their team members need to develop, and research suggests that they are more likely than HR or training professionals to begin training.

Companies should develop a strategy for identifying and quantifying training requirements directly from management. This might take the shape of a periodical survey augmented by in-depth meetings with a chosen group of managers who can provide feedback and advise on training initiatives as they are developed.

This strategy has been followed by a firm located in Denmark. The corporation started a training program for all workers called “Power Your Career” in 2020. Its objective was to increase employee retention and career mobility. 

The company wanted to identify what was causing workers to feel trapped in their professions to build a successful program. The team performed 15 in-depth interviews with corporate executives at various levels, followed by four focus groups. The resulting program concentrated on addressing particular concerns identified by managers as impeding employee development, such as how to provide more constructive feedback and have more productive one-on-one sessions with employees. 

It takes a lot more effort to spend so much time with so many managers, but evaluations following the program revealed that having managers participating at numerous times was essential to success.  The company has seen a significant increase in the quality of manager-employee engagement, as well as a stronger emphasis on continual growth. 

Make learning objectives and a learning framework.

Managers may find it difficult to urge their busy and overworked team members to learn something new. One option is to establish a location and time for learning, which provides managers with cover when urging team members to engage.

Novartis chief learning officer Simon Brown explains his company’s goal of offering 100 hours of learning per year in his book The Curious Advantage. With the help of CEO Vas Narasimhan’s outspoken backing, the firm has seen workers spend more than double the amount of time each year on learning over the last three years compared to the preceding period. Having the CEO’s endorsement as well as a quantifiable goal makes it much simpler for managers to motivate their team members to participate.

Employees like clear goals and organization. Research at other companies reveals that workers prefer guided learning experiences instead of self-paced learning. Employees proceed through the course against a predetermined timetable and with a group of peers, which is a crucial aspect of these guided learning experiences, often known as cohort-based courses. The feeling of discipline and community helps employees complete the course, retain what they learn, and use it in their careers.

Managers should be assigned a distinct role.

There aren’t enough training and skill-building programs that explicitly define managers’ duties. This is an error. Managers have far greater visibility and influence over employee priorities than a centralized HR or L&D staff.

Training programs should use this capacity to increase participation. For example, rather than having an L&D person announce a training project, try having the announcement come straight from managers to their team members, after which human resources and L&D experts may reinforce and recall.

The internal “Carrefour University” of the French retail company Carrefour provides managers a crucial role. All participants who have been selected to attend a training session are notified by their supervisors, who are informed of the development goals of this specific session, helping the integration of the new skills gained on the job.  Managers also urge participants to share their knowledge with others when they finish their education.

Help managers put instruction into practice.

Managers can also assist team members in applying what they have learned.

This method is used by Aegon, as part of a companywide “Analytics for Leaders” initiative. Part of the initiative is providing tangible ideas for how analytics may be applied in various aspects of the organization. Managers of participants have a role in the program and are accountable for approving and “owning” these ideas. That ownership is vital because great ideas without an owner will not gain momentum. The organizers follow up with management one month after the training to assess the effectiveness of the program and tackle any problems that are presented. 

This procedure is repeated regularly, and the company’s top management is provided with a regular report on the actual actions that result from the training.

Collect manager feedback.

Most training projects just solicit feedback from participants. Companies should also get feedback from the participants’ management. This collection will have to be done at a different time. Instead of asking for feedback right after the training, time it for soon before the training, when managers may provide advice on what they expect, and then 30 to 60 days afterward.

The questions will also be unique. Instead of inquiring about the training’s quality, inquire about its impact. How should team members put what they’ve learned into practice? How did they fare? What obstacles could stand in the way of them using it more effectively?

This method has been used by AstraZeneca, as part of its talent development and retention strategy. For example, participants in the company’s “Leader as Coach” program, a six-month hands-on learning experience, are evaluated both by the people they oversee and by their supervisors. These evaluations take place before, during, and after the program and include 20 distinct criteria, such as how well participants “acknowledge and celebrate team successes” and “create an environment that encourages others to realize their potential.”

This is a very immersive program with a “practice and apply” approach. The company explains that manager input assists both the learner and the L&D team in understanding the true effect and development.

As organizations deal with a significant shift in the labor market, the burden of keeping and developing staff does not have to fall only on HR and training departments. Managers are in a unique position to boost employee retention and engagement; firms should provide them with the necessary structure and resources.

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