Do More Than Manage: How Engaged Managers Affect Employee Development and Performance

Mar 29, 2016

Do More Than Manage

Have you attended an employee development class or watched a webinar intended to enhance your knowledge and improve your job performance? Perhaps the learning opportunity was mandatory, something your manager required you to complete. But, perhaps your manager's only involvement in your learning was to sign off on the opportunity for you. Unless you were motivated by your own desire for self-improvement, you probably took away very little from the experience that you actually applied to your job. If you are a manager and are rarely engaged in your employees' development, this is a costly fault.

Andy Jefferson, CEO of Fort Hills Company and co-author of Getting Your Money's Worth from Training and Development: A Guide to Breakthrough Learning for Managers, argues that organizational values and manager values significantly affect employee performance. When managers express organizational values that support learning, employees are more engaged in the transfer of learning to their jobs, resulting in an overall improved workplace performance. Too frequently, there is a disconnect between organizational and individual values, and managerial engagement needed for effective performance improvement interventions. Research has found that manager support before, during, and after employee development opportunities is the weakest link in the learning continuum for employees. Simply put, when no one cares about what we learn and how we use it, we may not care either. This is an unfortunate truth.

The opportunity to influence employee development begins well before any training class begins and ends long after employees return to their usual routines. To improve the process, a manager must first establish and communicate why and how an employee is selected for training, as well as what the opportunity means to the employee, the manager, and the organization. After the training, follow-up coaching conversations that allow a manager to provide support and guidance further influence positive employee performance improvements. However, there should always be a healthy balance between support and accountability. Unrestricted access to support without any accountability for delivering results is one extreme, while all accountability with no support (resulting in unsatisfactory employee performance) is another extreme.

If managerial engagement is so important for employee learning, why aren't more managers actively involved? A big reason why managers do not coach to support learning is because they simply do not know how. The title of "manager" rarely comes with coaching instructions. Jefferson recommends that organizations provide managers with support to achieve their coaching goals. Instructional designers can also provide a simple checklist or work sheets on how to coach learning on the job. Checklists are easy for managers to follow, eliminate ambiguity about what needs to be done, and improve the accountability of managers. For managers to be motivated to coach, they must understand the importance of their role, believe there is value in being a mentor, be aware of program objectives, know their direct reports' goals, and be held accountable by their leadership. Successful organizations have values that encourage managers to do more than manage. Successful organizations have managers that are actively engaged mentors and coaches as well.

ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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