“People leave managers, not companies” often comes up whenever we talk about leadership. The truth is that the way managers interact with their teams influences the team members’ satisfaction and engagement levels.
This is also true about the level of engagement in any learning intervention. If managers are not on board with the L&D strategy and see training more as a waste of time, employees will probably adopt the same attitude.
Good leadership development programs are essential for ensuring managers have the knowledge and tools to lead and bring cohesion to their teams. The actual involvement of managers in the training programs designed for their team members is also important for several reasons:
Involving managers in training fosters a learning culture
Managerial involvement doesn’t mean that team leaders have to deliver training. They have enough on their plates without this extra task. However, getting them involved will make the process much smoother.
First, it will demonstrate that the learning intervention is important. Second, it will give managers the chance to connect with their team in a less formal setting and find out firsthand what their challenges and learning gaps are.
However, managers need to be genuinely involved in the intervention. If they are sitting on the sidelines, employees will feel evaluated, and that’s no way to encourage learning.
On the other hand, genuine interest guarantees a healthy learning culture that comes with:
- Better productivity (and profits)
- Improved employee satisfaction levels
- Lower turnover rates
- A healthy approach to learning
- Better organizational agility
Managers should be involved from the design stage
Training needs assessment and audience analysis are the basis of any instructional design process. Training requests often come from managers, yet they don’t usually get involved beyond that.
The need for upskilling is frequent, and it’s useful to know what prompted each intervention and future expectations. Managers know better than anybody what their team members know and where they struggle. It’s their responsibility to offer their teams the tools and information needed to succeed.
Considering they know the specific job requirements and the projected business needs, managers can decide what is (and will be) relevant. They can also pinpoint who needs an intervention the most — new hires or current employees.
Managers create opportunities for on-the-job practice
Many training interventions fail because nothing happens after they’re over. Even when learning is aligned to company needs and team goals, new skills or behaviors won’t become habits without enough practice.
With managers involved in formal learning, it’s more likely they will take it upon themselves to create the right conditions for practice followed by desired behavioral change.
Spaces where learners feel safe to try and possibly make mistakes are essential, as are coaching and mentoring. When required, managers can also offer supervision and ask for further training courses or other organizational interventions.
Learning goals should be aligned with company and team goals
Involving managers in learning interventions from the very early stages ensures that any training effort directly supports an important company or department objective. A major part of a manager’s role is to support the team in setting meaningful and achievable learning and development goals.
Some training goals should be connected to job-specific skills, while others should be focused on broadening competencies to help employees advance or move laterally in the organization. Again, managers are best suited to identify talented individuals and talk to them about their aspirations and their opportunities within the organization.
Managers know firsthand what their team members know and where they’re lacking in terms of skills and behaviors. They can make sure that their training is on point and provide a safe space to practice what they’ve learned. If employees see that their managers value learning, they will be more engaged in the process, leading to higher retention rates and better satisfaction scores.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.