How to Get Managers to Own Their Role in Employee Learning

September 1, 2017

Here's how learning and development professionals can get managers to encourage learning within their team.

One of the top challenges for learning professionals is getting managers to encourage learning with their teams, according to a LinkedIn survey. And yet that's a must, says Association for Talent Development CEO Tony Bingham.

 “Managers must understand that developing their people and teams is an important responsibility and an opportunity to positively impact employee engagement," Bingham said. "With employee turnover and engagement as top challenges facing those in HR, the evidence that professional development contributes to engagement must be communicated effectively throughout the organization. Effective talent development can reduce turnover, increase productivity and add to profitability.”

So how do you, as a learning and development (L&D) pro, get managers to encourage learning within their teams? We answer that question fully in our new asset, A Modern Playbook: How to Overcome Top Challenges to Advance Your Learning Culture.

But here are two tactics you can use to start getting more manager buy-in today:

Tactic #1: Spotlight managers who are successfully encouraging learning.

Most likely, there are some managers at your organization who are successfully encouraging learning within their team. Circulate their success stories to encourage the rest of your managers to do the same.

LinkedIn did this via its Manager Track Project. The goal: show managers at all levels how they can use eLearning to upskill their teams.

For the project, the LinkedIn L&D team gathered success stories across the organization and created a presentation for managers detailing how their peers have successfully encouraged learning. For example, they touted a story of a LinkedIn sales manager that had each member of his team each week watch a relevant LinkedIn Learning course and then summarize their findings to the rest of the team.

Thirty days after doing this, the sales manager saw an 880 percent increase in eLearning hours viewed by his team. There were business benefits as well – the sales manager saw increased interpersonal skills, resilience and technical competency among his employees.

Tactic #2: Show managers how encouraging learning fits within their day.

A manager encouraging learning isn’t as hard as it sounds. Show managers how to easily and naturally incorporate learning into what they already are doing via these two techniques:

  • Encourage managers to direct their employees to learning when they’re looking to grow.

As an L&D pro, you can use eLearning to help managers recommend relevant courses and show employees how easy it is to find relevant content they need to be successful in their job. 

Put together custom playlists for the different departments in your organization. These playlists can serve as go-tos for managers to recommend to employees when they are struggling in their role or are looking to expand their skillsets.

While the playlist may not contain everything the employee is looking for, it’s a perfect way to introduce them to your eLearning platform. Once in it, they can see what other courses the platform offers.

  • Highlight the importance of learning in performance reviews.

During performance reviews, encourage your managers to ask their employees what skills they'd like to learn that quarter and assign relevant courses or trainings that teach them. Or, encourage managers to ask themselves where they'd like to see the employee improve, and then have them recommend courses that can help in those areas.

Even the ratings you give employees can encourage learning. L&D consultant Dr. Britt Andreatta recommends adding the word “yet” to employee ratings. Giving an employee an evaluation of “hasn’t met expectations yet” – as opposed to simply “hasn’t met expectations” – reinforces to an employee they have the potential to do the job, it just comes down to refining a few key skills.

Sounds small, right? But it can have big results. One Chicago high school started adding “yet” to their grades – as in “not at expectations yet” – and saw an immediate increase in graduation rates. Doing something similar at your company could have similar outcomes.

To learn more about how to get managers and other key stakeholders to buy into learning, download A Modern Playbook: How to Overcome Top Challenges to Advance Your Learning Culture.