Managers are your engagement trendsetters

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Written by Stephanie Morgan on 19 September 2017

One reason L&D still struggles for engagement is because many people are only thinking one step ahead when it comes to their career. If everyone was thinking three or five years into the future, they’d be learning and focusing on career development to deliver on their plans.

Encouraging our people to think long-term needs to be a key focus for L&D, because it gets them considering their careers. And we know that getting people thinking about their careers gets them thinking about learning.

A great place to start with this would be with your managers. By putting your efforts into encouraging them to take part in career conversations, you can get them thinking about learning in a whole new light and become great role models and learner engagement trendsetters in your organisation.

Understanding career pathways

We all know that routes into management are many and varied, making management career paths harder to define than some other professions.

In medicine or accountancy, for example, there are exams, role competencies and skills frameworks - it’s easier to identify the learning needed to advance. But some managers may be in niche roles, or new industries, which can make finding benchmarks harder. Managers often won’t know exactly what steps they need to take, or even what their end goal is.

If your managers need help to map out their career pathways, work with them to identify what good performance looks like now, and what it might look like on the next step of the ladder.

For example, to take that step up, do they need to show that they’ve managed a large number of people? Increased a team’s output? Had a certain level of budget responsibility? Or perhaps the manager wants to develop a breadth of experience, going from arm to arm of the business until they have knowledge of all areas.

If your managers need help to map out their career pathways, work with them to identify what good performance looks like now, and what it might look like on the next step of the ladder. This may be a straightforward task if you already have competency frameworks in place.

What’s in it for me?

Our recent whitepaper discussed how managers are L&D’s hidden allies and can really boost learner engagement. Offering a career focus is one of the key steps to achieving this. Research published in 2016 by Towards Maturity found that “career progression is a strong motivational factor for learners, whether for promotion within the organisation or for more general advancement.”

Not only that, Gallup research highlights that one of the top motivations for high-quality candidates when applying for new roles is the opportunity to learn and develop in their roles.


Is engagement really just a learning problem?

When we collaborate with our managers on their career pathways and initiate career conversations, we make new, motivated learners out of them. It gives L&D an opportunity to shine and give managers something great to talk about.

This really is a win-win!

How can L&D help?

We understand what makes the organisation tick, and the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are used and valued. We have oversight of the business and strategy and, with our knowledge of the business and development opportunities, L&D is in the perfect position to get managers thinking about their careers.

Linking managers up with ‘the bigger picture’ is one way we can help them to take a step back and think about their potential.

By having these conversations and creating career paths for managers, you’ll be able to align learning to organisational strategy, where the gaps are, and opportunities for movement and development that can help managers advance. This aligns perfectly with the shift in recent years in which organisations are starting to align learning and talent.

Try using these three tips for engaging managers with their careers and start building your engagement trendsetters.

  • Get them talking

The first step is getting managers in the room.

If you’re not in a position to sit down one-on-one with your managers, try setting up internal ‘career workshops’. Use this to get managers thinking about what they excel at, what they love doing, and how they can leverage that in their role and in their next role.

Ask them regularly what they want from their career, and facilitate that conversation.

  • Build a network

Get career on the agenda! Try setting up a peer-to-peer management career network within your organisation. This could include coffee mornings, quarterly events or simply a forum where they can offer advice and support for each other.

This can be managed by L&D to ensure that you know exactly what managers are looking for.

  • Use social

Another way of inspiring managers to want to develop is to use success stories.

Success sells, and getting testimonials and case studies from managers who have managed to progress their career will gain huge buy-in. Although this isn’t a quick fix, it’s a good idea to build this into your project planning so that you can track success from start to finish.

Career-minded managers who aspire to excel and scale the ranks will naturally look for learning and growth opportunities; and as professionals are becoming more career-conscious, L&D need to capitalise on this.

This is an opportunity for L&D to excite their managers, show a real interest in their progression and start creating engagement trendsetters and role models for the rest of the organisation.


About the author

Stephanie Morgan is director of learning solutions at Bray Leino Learning

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