As L&D practitioners, we have more resources at our disposal than ever before.
We have more channels of communication, more learning delivery methods and more analytical and measurement tools. We are better informed and more in touch with the workforce. We can connect at any time with our managers and stakeholders, access complex reporting metrics and create varied, engaging learning blends.
That said, we all know that if managers got a lot better at having good performance conversations, giving feedback and helping their people identify learning objectives—and then sharing that with us—we could serve their needs better!
So one key area of focus for us all in L&D has to be helping our managers to do just that. By using our skills and expertise to help managers get the best from their teams, we can get the best from them in turn.
Can your managers recognise need?
It starts with the basics: can your managers recognise need? I don’t mean just knowing that someone on their team ‘could do better’; but understanding what exactly requires improvement.
Not everyone is able to own or articulate their learning needs, and being able to have the conversations that can unlock them is key. This is an underestimated skill—to be able to identify real needs, not just symptoms—and it needs developing, just like other skills.
What can we in L&D do to help managers to recognise need? If this is a key issue for you, you might want to think about refresher workshops, tutorials, infographics or eLearning. Choose the method that is right for you and your organisation, but don’t ignore the issue. Upskilling managers in the whys and the hows of unlocking learning requirements is crucial in helping you address the learning needs.
Can your managers have meaningful conversations?
60% of employees told TimesJobs in 2015 that their annual performance review was "a waste of time". 70% didn't understand the process and how they were evaluated, and a huge majority—85%—were not at all familiar with the end-to-end process of performance review.
Getting learners to engage and see value in a process is especially challenging when learners don't even understand the process and its aims. It’s hard to have meaningful conversations within a process or system that people don’t buy into. This can be even more difficult if the systems we have in place to help actually frustrate the managers too.
Irrespective of how good or bad the process is, the point is the conversation. Focus your attention on helping managers and their people to have meaningful performance conversations.
By taking the focus off the process, you can reduce the likelihood of the conversation being sidetracked or devalued. Then everyone will be better able to identify true learning needs.
Can your managers get their people to care about the learning?
We all need to be part of the conversation when it comes to on-the-job learning. Leaving it to learners means the success of your learning comes down to the motivation and effectiveness of the individual—and some might do well, and some might not!
If the learners aren’t doing it for themselves, it’s the manager’s responsibility to at least try to motivate them and do something about that. Performance is a manager’s responsibility, and learning is an aspect of that. It’s the manager’s job to help their people understand that, and be motivated to do something about it.
One factor could be that—as new research by Lever and Lentum shows—nearly half of managers aren't involved in supporting the learning of the people reporting to them. There can be many reasons for this. One might be that managers don’t see the importance of learning themselves.
If this is true for you—if even 20% of your managers don’t see the importance of learning and aren’t able to support their people—you might want to try to identify the reasons why so you can address the issues head-on. Don’t ignore it!
There is no doubt that identifying learner needs and soft skills gaps would be much easier if we could support managers better.
However, we often struggle to bridge the gap. Communication can be fragmented; learning falls by the wayside, and we don’t get the support and buy-in we need.
With new technology, we have more channels of communication open to us and more means to deliver than ever before. But if we’re not getting the right feedback, we’re not going to be able to do what we need to do.
L&D need to support managers to have good conversations, both in and out of the performance review process. And helping managers engage and motivate people to value their learning needs is crucial to learning success.
If L&D can commit to opening up conversations with our managers, facing issues head-on and using our skill in identifying and addressing those needs, it will be a win-win all round.
Not sure where to start? Get in touch and we can arrange a free exploratory conversation to help get on the right track.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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