Managers in any organization, whether nonprofit, government, or business, play a pivotal role in creating and sustaining learning. They do not have to be instructors nor do they have to be expert in the knowledge and skills needed by their direct reports. However, they do have to believe that people can learn and change, they have to care about their own learning, and they have to value the development of the people they supervise. If they have these beliefs and values, then managers can contribute significantly to learning in their organizations.
In our book, The 5As Framework, Sean Murray and I describe seven steps managers can take to facilitate and support learning of their direct reports:
STEP TWO: Agree on a set of learning objectives for the short-term and long-term.
STEP THREE: Agree on the indicators that will be used to determine progress toward those objectives and achievement of goals.
STEP FOUR: Describe how the learner can get the most out of the learning intervention.
STEP FIVE: Arrange for the learner to get whatever resources he/she needs to apply the learning to your business unit.
STEP SIX: Plan regular meetings (they may be brief) to discuss progress toward objectives and goals and any changes that would help the learner’s progress.
STEP SEVEN: Make modifications in the learning intervention as needed.
Essentially, managers should work with learners to set goals, clarify expectations, provide opportunities for application, and hold them accountable for making a difference. Training professionals can certainly help managers with this, but managers are in best position to facilitate the kind of day-to-day learning that is needed in high performance organizations today.