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The Importance of Managers for Learning and Development

The Importance of Managers for Learning and Development

Webcast Details

  • Gallup's Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 7, Episode 6
  • Learn more about how great managers provide learning for those they manage, and how they can do this effectively as more millennials enter the workforce.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with the Principal Architect of Gallup's Global Client Learning Strategy, Dean Jones, about employee learning and development, its centrality to the employee's experience and expectations, and the integral role the manager plays in an employee's learning and development.

Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

Dean Jones: Want to talk today about the importance of managers for organizations -- and how you as a strengths coach can be helping managers develop -- and by extension, improve and transform -- the culture of the companies that you work with.

No secret that Gallup thinks managers are important -- have been talking about the significance of managers since First, Break All the Rules.

  • This year, we are releasing It's the Manager -- our latest book that provides world-class advice and insights for leaders and managers at all levels in the organization.
  • Includes everything from culture to employment to moving from a boss to a coach to the future of work.

Specifically, want to talk about how learning is an integral part of what great managers provide -- how it is the focus of their work and what they do.

5:37 Why do we need managers and can some workgroups do without them?

Changing Workforce

The workforce is changing -- and we know that millennials have driven much of that change.

  • Gallup's measurement of working U.S. adults shows that millennials -- those born between 1980 and 1996 -- make up 38% of the workforce. In the coming years, as more members of this generation transition into the workforce, that percentage will only increase.

In some ways, millennials behave differently than other generations.

  • They are more connected, more highly educated, more likely to change jobs more frequently.
  • They are more ethnically and racially diverse as a generation -- and more likely to value diversity and inclusion.
  • They are less likely to be registered voters and less likely to be affiliated with an organized religion.

But in many ways, millennials have "given voice" to many of the things that all generations want.

  • They want a "good job" where they can be fully engaged in their work.
  • They want their work to be meaningful -- work that has a purpose and fulfills their sense of mission.
  • They want to be in an environment that focuses on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

But most of all, millennials want to be in an environment that is characterized by development -- where they have opportunities to learn and grow.

  • A majority of millennial job seekers (59%) report that opportunities to learn and grow re extremely important to them when applying for a job.
    • Similarly, 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of baby boomers say the same about these types of opportunities.
  • 13:40 A striking 87% of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job.
    • 69% of non-millennials say the same.

Meeting the Need for Learning

Opportunities to learn and grow are what helps attract and retain employees of all generations.

Learning is central to culture and employee experience (base-level expectation).

But people are not getting the development at work that they want or need.

  • On average, 3 in 10 employees strongly agree that there is someone at work who encourages their development.
  • When this figure doubles (increases to 6 in 10), profitability increases by 11% and employee retention by 28%.
  • On average, 4 in 10 employees strongly agree that they have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
  • When this number doubles (increases to 8 in 10), productivity increases by 16% and employee retention increases by 44%.

17:21 We also know that learning is changing.

  • Learning is on demand -- agile organizations want learning that is flexible and ready to meet employee needs when they happen.
  • Learning is informal -- more likely to happen on the job, on a mobile device, or inside of a colleague, mentor, or manager relationship than in a formal classroom (social learning).
  • Learning is more learner-centric -- designed around the specific problems, issues and development needs of the learning (Knowles -- relevancy).
    • Technology -- Learning Experience Platforms
  • Learning is local -- employees expect feedback and coaching as part of their day-to-day experience of working.
    • 47% of employees report having received feedback from their manager "a few times a year" or less often in the past year.
    • 19% of employees receive feedback from their manager once a year or less.
    • Only 34% of employees strongly agree that their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on.

Managers are central to learning. Managers have a disproportionate impact on employees and teams -- 70% of workgroup engagement can be directly attributed to the manager.

Employees know that managers are important:

  • Among workers of all generations, "quality of manager" is a vital factor in deciding which jobs to apply for. 58% of millennial job seekers, 50% of Gen Xers and 60% of baby boomers say this attribute is extremely important to them.

31:11 And employees want 4 things from their manager:

  • job clarity and priorities (expectations)
  • ongoing feedback and communication (coaching)
  • accountability (review progress, discuss and apply learning, recognition for successes)
  • opportunities to learn and grow

The best coach for an employee is their manager. They are closest to the action -- and coaching can be directly tied to development and performance. (May be startling for some strengths coaches.)

Great managers:

  • have a clear picture of expectations and excellence for each role -- and communicate it
  • have built a relationship with the people they manage -- so those people are known and cared for, in a job that fits, and have what they need to succeed
  • coach and provide feedback on an ongoing basis
    • accessible and approachable
    • provide individualized coaching and feedback
    • constructive
  • provide accountability
    • recognize success
    • talk about successes, failures and progress
    • create coaching and learning moments
  • have a developmental mindset (growth mindset -- Carol Dweck)

16% of employees report that someone took an interest in developing their strengths in the past week.

Strengths coaches should focus on coaching managers more than any other group in the organization.

Dean Jones' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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