5 Reasons Managers Should Improve Employee Engagement and Training

Employees don’t leave a bad company – they leave a bad manager. Why? Because the everyday interaction managers have with employees can influence their level of engagement in the workplace.

Ideally, the close relationship between employee and manager should also extend to training. But too often, a manager’s role in training and development is overlooked because managers are not training experts. Given that managers understand the job, the business requirements, and most importantly, their employees, shouldn’t they be more active in training?

Why Should Companies Consider the Manager’s Role in Training and Development?

Let’s take a quick step back to reflect on an interesting statistic: Gallup reports that only 15% of employees across the world are actively engaged in their job. Yikes. Disengaged employees drain valuable resources while contributing very little to the company’s goals.

The reality is that no company can afford to have 85% of their employees disengaged. Keeping engagement up is one of managers’ responsibilities to employees and the business. This means that companies need to provide managers with the tools to improve employee engagement on all levels. And training is one of the most effective of these tools.

Involving Managers When You Train Employees

Many companies hire professional trainers to tackle employee learning and development, despite training being a core management responsibility.

The problem with cutting managers out of the training process is twofold. Firstly, their insights about the employees on their team remain untapped. Secondly, managers can’t fully leverage training benefits when they don’t have input into which skills are developed, and how.

Another reason to make managers a vital part of the process when you train employees is to empower them to support employees after the training program ends. Active post-training support is crucial to achieving real behavioral change and performance improvement.

5 Ways Managers Can Improve Employee Training

Given managers’ influence on employee engagement, it’s important that they feel empowered to improve employee training. Let’s take a closer look at five practical ways for managers to support employee development, and ultimately improve employee engagement.

1. Set the example and foster a learning culture

A manager’s role in training and development is essential because they spend so much time with employees. Managers can use simple daily interactions to show employees that training is a priority.

This constant interaction between manager and employee can be leveraged to improve training by consciously fostering a learning culture within the organization. An effective learning culture starts from the top, and is cascaded throughout all levels – no exceptions!

A successful learning culture promises:

● Increased productivity (and increased profit!)
● Improved employee satisfaction levels
● Decreased employee turnover
● A culture of knowledge sharing (rather than knowledge-hoarding)
● Improved learning agility

Training programs can also take advantage of managers’ daily interaction with employees by incorporating managers into structured post-training activities. These can range from on-the-job assessments to encouragement when employees find changes challenging to implement and maintain.

2. Offer a deeper insight into employees

When designing a training program, many start by consulting subject matter experts. Why not include managers in the process too? One of the managers’ responsibilities towards employees is to ensure that they’re able to meet the requirements of their current job, and are prepared for upcoming changes.

Most employees require frequent upskilling in order to meet the changes in their industry. Yet, only 61% of Americans feel that their employer provides sufficient opportunities for developing their technical and soft skills to keep up with advances.

How can managers improve this statistic? By understanding where their team needs to improve today, as well as what skills they will need tomorrow.

Given their knowledge of both specific job requirements, and the business’s development needs, managers are an invaluable source of first-hand information about which skills are most important to train employees in – whether it’s entry-level training for new recruits or reskilling long-serving employees.

3. Communicate the value of employee development

What are the two major reasons why employees become disengaged and eventually quit? Because they feel stuck in a rut or like there is no clear path to progress.

Even if your organization has a strong learning culture, it’s still important to make it absolutely clear that employee training and development is a top priority. A manager’s role in training and development includes communicating (both through words and action) that the company values their employees’ growth.

The first step to valuing employee development is simply to make enough time for it. So when you train employees, give them the time they need to fully participate in training activities and complete assessments.

Managers should also take care to recognize employee improvement both during training and on-the-job. This will help employees feel appreciated and motivated to keep growing.

4. Create opportunities for on-the-job practice

New skills and knowledge gained during training simply won’t stick if learners don’t get a chance to apply them in the workplace. In other words, companies run the risk of wasting a significant portion of their training investment if employees aren’t given the opportunity to practice.

Managers should collaborate with trainers to provide employees with opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in “safe to fail” spaces, like role-plays with colleagues, or eLearning scenarios and serious games.

Finally, managers can provide hands-on supervision when employees apply trickier new skills in the workplace, or allow employees to complete a new task with them.

5. Set training and performance goals

Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, said “Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” A key part of a manager’s role in training and development is to support their team in setting meaningful and achievable goals and plotting out the road to achieve them.

Training goals should relate to job-specific skills. But they should also relate to broader professional development activities that help employees advance within the organization and realize their career ambitions. Managers have the privilege of working closely with employees to identify the knowledge and skills they’ll need for these goals in the short term and in the long run.

Setting measurable KPIs is always advised, too – the cliché that what is measured can be achieved is worth taking seriously. Managers should work together with employees to establish areas for development, and find ways to quantify their goals. For example, a new sales employee may need to aim for 20% more sales per quarter after training is complete.

The manager’s role in training also extends to communicating training expectations to their team. All employees should know how their participation in training will affect their performance reviews and advancement opportunities.

Don’t Overlook Your Best Training Assets

Underestimate a manager’s role in training and development at your peril! They’re experts in employee needs, and how each of their team members can better contribute to the company’s goals.

And when managers are closely involved in training, employees are more likely to be engaged, too. They’ll feel that their development is valued and that their manager supports their growth. That’s why engaged employees and relevant, effective training quickly translate to improved ROI, productivity, and overall employee satisfaction.

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