This is the second of a three-part series about what people face after training. The first article discussed the concerns employees have once class ends. This second article takes the manager’s point of view, and the third will look at what experienced employees, who often serve as ad hoc trainers, have to deal with.
Front line managers have the best opportunity to help employees develop. They know their teams better than anyone, and they can see not only the results of their work but the processes, habits, and struggles behind those results.
However, managers don’t always have the skills or understanding to help employees transfer knowledge from training classes to work tasks. Depending on who makes training decisions, managers might not even know what happened in class.
Plus, many people erroneously believe that if someone can pass a test after the formal instruction, they’ll automatically start using the new skills. And few people understand what it takes to develop new information into a habit.
But it pays managers to develop their people. Bersin by Deloitte research recently reported by Biz Library indicates that teams which get frequent, effective feedback improve their performance by 21% compared to those that get no coaching at all.
So we’re left with a situation in which leaders want and need to develop their employees between formal training classes but don’t have the skills or structure to do it.
Imagine you’re a manager and you have a new employee Joe, who has great potential. You need Joe to settle in and start producing quickly. He’s completed his on-boarding training, and he’s also “learning the ropes” as he dives into his new role. But in the midst of your typically chaotic day, it’s hard to keep track of Joe’s progress.
Here are the questions running through your mind:
What’s Joe working on now?
You’ve given him assignments, but how is he coming along? Is he lost?
Does he need support? You want to give him the autonomy to find his own path, so you don’t follow him around like a private eye. But you still need to know what he’s up to.
What did he learn today or yesterday?
More than what he’s doing, you need to know what he’s learning. Does he understand your processes and your business? Is he learning the standard best practices or just short-cuts to get by for now?
Who’s helping him?
In any team, there are usually one or two natural mentors that help others learn the job. But as a manager, you may not realize who’s helping Joe with his work.
Is he even getting help or is everyone too busy? If you’ve asked him to work with someone on a project, is that person teaching him as they go or just doing the work?
Also, who on your team is a good coach? It’s important for managers to have coaching skills, but several key folks on your team should be able to coach as well.
How much progress has he made so far? Is he falling behind?
Without grilling Joe every day, you’d like to see that he’s working toward his milestones. You want to know if his progress has stalled, if he’s falling dangerously behind, and what you can do to help.
Will he be ready for more responsibility?
With new and experienced employees, you want to see them expand the types and complexity of work they can do. You want to offer them challenging assignments but you can’t let work quality suffer. When is someone ready for the next step? When can you throw Joe into the mix and know that he’ll perform?
How can I make sure he never stops learning and improving?
When most people talk about career development, they think of what classes they can take and whether the company will pay for a certificate or degree. But you need your team to improve in small, effective ways every day. How can you keep that new-hire learning mindset going?
Getting the answers takes a work-based development structure.
Fortunately, you have the answers at your fingertips. You can communicate regularly with employees, learn to be a good coach, and help team members mentor each other.
Unfortunately, you have other things to do. Front line managers often do project work as well as people work, and your compensation structure may favor production over long-term development.
But as noted before, employee development is one key to improved productivity. So you need a structure that puts employees on a path of continuous development without soaking up all your time.
Such a structure would require
- Clear, actionable, work-based objectives with realistic milestones
- A channel to easily communicate these objectives to everyone
- A process for “assigning” learning goals to employees
- A way for employees to “sign up” for learning goals
- Resources and qualified mentors who can help provide coaching and feedback
- A system to match up mentors and learners
- Real-time reporting of progress and feedback
With a clear structure and pointers to useful resources, employees can take responsibility for their own development. They have all the tools to do it. And with real-time reporting, managers can hold employees accountable for turning work tasks into development opportunities, but offer help when needed.
This kind of structure gives managers the answers to all those questions. They can guide and support employees’ development without having to push the boulder uphill on their own shoulders.
At Pract.us, we’re dedicated to helping you develop the systems that create and encourage continuous learning at your company. Learn more about how we can help.