Ensure Middle Management Engagement for L&D Success

Jun 29 2023
5 min read
Ensure Middle Management Engagement for L&D Success

Middle management engagement can be an essential factor in maximizing the benefits of learning and development programs. In fact, middle managers might just be your most important employees when it comes to leading and inspiring the building of skills. How can you help them to accomplish this mission? Best practices are the answer.  

Google and Gallup at Odds

Back when Google was just starting out, the company was interested in creating as lean an organization as possible. One of their ideas was to get rid of middle managers. It was felt that good communication between senior leaders and regular employees would make such managers redundant. But what Google found instead was that managers have a significant impact on morale and productivity.  

On the other hand, Gallup has known for many years that managers are crucial, particularly when it comes to motivation. According to Gallup, “managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement.” Equipping managers with the resources needed to boost workplace attitudes puts the right tools in the hands of the right people. 

Learning and Engagement

One of the most relevant topics for increasing engagement is learning and development. If employee turnover rates reflect poor engagement, then addressing the number one factor for quitting – lack of career advancement due to poor development opportunities – clearly shows the critical nature of L&D.  

Many studies have illustrated this fact. According to Statista, for example, 76% of Gen Z employees view learning as a vital factor in career success, followed by 61% of Millennials.  

Putting Two and Two Together

So we’re looking at two facts: both managers and L&D are essential for engagement. This relationship hints at the idea that promoting middle managers to become a central aspect of learning initiatives makes a lot of sense. 

But beyond that, HR will discover that managers create productive synergies when they take on a major role in L&D programs. For example, as long as a manager is recommending courses for employees to take, then it is a natural step for them to supervise employees as they use their new skills during the performance of tasks. 

In all, managers can be more practical leaders for L&D initiatives than other kinds of leaders, which saves time and complications for the HR team. What steps can HR take to make this happen?

Listen to Managers’ Advice

As those who see the performance of employees on a daily basis, and understand where individual workers are lacking, managers are in the best position to recommend specific training courses. And in fact, that’s what happens. According to the Harvard Business Review, managers are more likely to initiate an employee training course than the HR department. 

This role can be supported by arranging methods for managers’ L&D recommendations. Luckily, such communication might already exist in your organization, through formats such as:

Get Upper Management Support

A major impediment for workplace learning is, well, work. Both employees and managers are supposed to be devoting all their time to production. But when L&D programs also require their attention, something’s got to give, unless the executive level provides certain resources. These can include:

  • Paid overtime to cover hours missed due to learning programs
  • Temporary hires or an expanded team to fill in for employees at a learning program
  • Work from home programs that turn travel time into learning time

Make Managers an Important Address

Not only do managers take the initiative when it comes to L&D, but they are often the “face” of the company as well. In the eyes of employees, the direct manager is their main connection to the organization and is the one who is responsible for their productivity. 

With this culture in place, it is a logical step to have managers represent learning programs as well. Obviously, they won’t be doing the instruction. But they can be made responsible for announcing courses, providing commendations, and listening to employee feedback. HR can then take a supportive role instead of introducing a new set of people to the employee’s daily life. 

Put Managers in Charge of Skill Application

The final test of a successful L&D program is that the employee can apply their new skill set to their job. This basically always happens as the manager passively observes, and their feedback needs to wait until the next employee review. 

Instead, new skills should be used with the manager being an official part of the process. The manager should understand what improved behavior and/or productivity should now occur. If they don’t see it, then HR should be informed and the employee sent for a refresher so as to ensure that they don’t use a flawed skill during their tasks.  

Growthspace for Engagement at All Levels

The traditional approach to L&D starts with the fact that most hierarchies are like a pyramid – narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. This means that most companies have few senior managers, but lots of employees. So, for customized talent development, it’s easier to provide training courses for executives while supplying one-size-fits-all programs to lower-level workers. The result is a large group of employees who don’t get the skills that they need to advance, leading to poor engagement. 

But not with Growthspace. The platform’s market-leading technology enables HR to connect with hundreds of L&D experts of any type, allowing personalized development at any scale. Growthspace also permits program supervision from a single interface, making admin tasks seamless and intuitive. With Growthspace, organizations can easily implement the courses that boost both levels of skill and engagement.

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