HR Leaders

The Future of HR: Managers and Employees, Driving Their Own Development

Job seekers at all levels are overwhelmingly concerned with learning and development opportunities. In recent surveys, this factor tops the list of factors potential applicants look at, from medical benefits to company culture.

SEE ALSO: How organizational agility empowers employees

People recognize that the key to a sustainable long-term career is to continue growing and honing their skills.

Formal vs. Informal

When we think of development, often what comes to mind is quite formal: Online courses, development programs, or corporate universities spearheaded by the HR department. Yet, the majority of learning takes place on the job rather than through formal programs. While formal learning may have its place, up to 90% of learning happens through colleagues, bosses, and mentors. These figures offer new challenges, feedback, and conversations which greatly shape a person’s working life.

This isn’t to say that HR no longer has a hand in development, but the best practices are changing to encompass a wider range of possibilities. HR can be more effective in the area of development by partnering with various actors inside an organization.

Managers Facilitating Development

Currently, managers are becoming important facilitators of learning and development. They are a natural partner for HR to drive development on the ground, since they understand their reports’ working life directly. Managers see their colleagues’ effort and growth every day, and control over the employee experience falls squarely in their lap.

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Ideally, managers help to bring in top talent, nurture their continued growth, and retain them over the long run. At every stage of the job lifecycle, managers have chances to keep development moving on a positive track, but things can just as easily turn the other way. If managers do not attend to development and performance, firms can suffer through turnover costs, lost productivity, and poor morale.

You’ll never hear the true details of negative experiences with managers in exit interviews either—who wants to burn those bridges? Yet a main reason employees quit is because of a poor relationship with their direct manager. Professionals who care about their career simply do not want to work under someone who does not take an interest in their development. They will instead seek out and stay with managers who help them grow their skillset and believe in their potential.

Prioritizing Development

Professional development in general isn’t always valued by companies the same way employees do. Unfortunately, learning and development is an area often slashed in budget cuts, but by leveraging managers and employees themselves HR can foster great, targeted development experiences without breaking the bank.

HR can work with managers to give them the best practices around informal learning. Any company stands to benefit from managers who are trained to encourage development. These types of managers know how to look for employees’ passions and marry that motivation to actions and assignments.

They are transparent with information about challenges, engage in frequent conversations about goals and interests, and encourage employees to identify opportunities for themselves. These types of managers are extremely savvy, but most managers can be trained to become development-focused. HR can explain the organizational importance of development and then help them understand how to tease out development goals from their reports, and set up systems for distributing work which allow for learning opportunities.

HR can explain the organizational importance of development and then help them understand how to tease out development goals from their reports, and set up systems for distributing work which allow for learning opportunities.

Finally, employees should be encouraged by their manager and HR to champion their own development. Besides providing resources for independent learning such as e-learning courses, short-form videos, and so on, an organization should support an environment where employees can express what they want to learn. In return, employees should also be given the responsibility of clarifying what they want to learn and how to go about it.

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