Whether your company has a dedicated Learning and Development division or you just take a few days off a year for training workshops, most of what employees learn comes from their everyday activities. Which means that direct managers, more than any other leadership, can greatly influence team development.
But managers have plenty of other responsibilities. According to McKinsey analysis of 5 industries from retail to airlines, managers spend only 10% to 35% of their time actively supervising employees. And while they’re often asked to give performance reviews or coach lagging performers, they rarely get trained in these tasks.
If this situation sounds familiar to you, take heart. You don’t have to be a skilled educator to make a positive impact on your employees and see better performance, retention, and engagement. The key is to set one or two immediate objectives, associate those with work assignments, and follow up.
Here are 9 easy ways to squeeze training into any crazy day.
The key to effective support is understanding what’s really going on. So take a moment and listen carefully to what employees say as they discuss both challenges and aspirations. They’ll tell you what they need and want to learn.
2. Develop personalized plans.
Meet with each employee for a quick review of his or her goals and set up a personalized plan. Don’t try to map out every step on a 30-year career. Look at a couple of one-year goals and determine the first step to reach each.
For example, if the employee wants to move into a sales support role, perhaps the first step is to sit in on some sales meetings. Make that the first plan objective and decide how to reach it. Put the responsibility in your employee’s hands by asking them to find out when the next meeting is and request an invite.
[Click here to check out a tool that helps you do this.]
3. Assign practice.
Armed with a list of immediate objectives for each employee, you can select assignments that help them practice these skills. As in the previous example, assign your employee to take notes at the next sales meeting. Remind employees how these tasks relate to their overall goals.
Ask people to look for projects they want to work on and let you know. You can also assign stretch work. Give team members jobs they’ve not done before and let them know that you want them to advance their skills by tackling a new challenge.
4. Give feedback early and often.
According to recent Gallup research, employees most want clear expectations from their managers. “Great managers don’t just tell employees what’s expected of them and leave it at that; instead, they frequently talk with employees about their responsibilities and progress. They don’t save those critical conversations for once-a-year performance reviews.”
Frequent feedback also improves learning because it lets people adjust course if they’re headed in the wrong direction. Your feedback will make the most impact when it’s related to each employee’s objective. If you only have a few hours a week to share comments, keep your discussion focused on the immediate learning objectives.
5. Enlist peers.
You may not have the time to personally coach someone through a new skill, but they probably have peers who’ve already learned it. So pair up newer and more experienced folks for the express purpose of helping someone meet their objective.
You can recruit several peer coaches for almost any learning target. Some people love to teach others. Just make sure you recognize the coaches for their contributions, too.
6. Set up collaborative learning groups.
You may have employees who want to branch into entirely new areas. For example, they might want to see how agile project management could work in your business. In that case, consider setting up a small team of people to tackle the question together.
They do research, access outside sources, apply their ideas to a particular project, and share the results with others. Learning groups not only help employees develop skills, they also build strong working relationships and encourage innovation.
7. Hold employees accountable.
As a manger with dozens of responsibilities, you have to ask employees to take responsibility for their advancement. You can guide, support, and remind them, but they have to drive.
8. Encourage the habit of reflection.
Recent research in the Journal of Work-based Learning observed that taking a few minutes to reflect on each day’s progress lets people absorb lessons, stay focused on their goals, and track their progress over time.
You can ask employees to stop work a few minutes before quitting time and either think or write about their days. Some people may prefer to chat with a co-worker, which works just as well as long as they’re discussing the day’s work and not who’s likely to get a rose on The Bachelor.
9. Track success.
Tracking progress is one of the most important things you can do as a manager. It will help you and your team see how far they’ve come and make annual performance reviews a snap. Plus, it’s great data to show off to your boss.
While keeping tally of everyone’s progress may seem tedious, you can outsource it to someone on your team. Just make sure to keep abreast of what’s going on so you can address problems if they occur.
As a manager, you have a lot to deal with. Sometimes it seems like you take on everyone else’s job as well as your own. But improving employee performance makes your job easier in the long run. And even with limited time and no specialized training, you can build a high-performing team.
At Pract.us, we make it easy to assign, guide and track learning through work experience. Click here for more information.