Welcome back and all the best in 2019! 

In a recent post, we explored the significant impact that managers have on employee performance.   In our last post we began looking at the support managers need to make their influence positive and effective.   That post discussed several solutions such as coaching.   Continuing our discussion of how you can support your managers, today we’ll focus on one area where coaching can make a big difference: getting managers to become better at supporting learning on the job.

While sending employees to courses, in a classroom or online, will continue to be important, it’s the employee’s job – day-to-day work – that is the biggest learning resource.  Every working day is dotted with opportunities to learn.  Every success – such as a project done well – can be used to help the employee think about what they did well and hone their skills.  But, so can challenges and even failures.  Learning from experience doesn’t require sitting down in a classroom or at a computer.  It simply calls for a conversation.  It can also be done on the spot, so the cost is zero.  The problem with learning on the job is that the greatest impact on-the-job learning can have is in real time – as close as possible to the event or accomplishment you want to extract learning from.  There is not much point in saying to Bill, “Remember that customer crisis six months ago that you helped us resolve?  What did you learn from it?”  So, the impactful times to use a work event for learning are short and fleeting.  If you wait too long, the potential to make a positive impact will be missed. Because everyone is busy, running from one task to the next, most of these learning moments are missed.   Are learning moments fully leveraged in your organization?   If your answer is Yes, good for you!  But, as will be the case with most organizations, there is room for improvement, read on!  

Managers, because of their intense involvement with employees and their work, play a key role in maximizing the benefit from on-job learning opportunities.  How can you support your managers in fully utilizing learning moments?  As you might imagine, this doesn’t need a lot of fanfare or expense.   The assistance your managers might need boils down to a few things:

  • They need to become aware of these learning opportunities that are all around, all the time, and for virtually every employee.
  • They have to learn to spot these opportunities.  Successes (large or small), failures, challenges and things that don’t go according to plan occur all the time.  The best way (maybe the only way) to spot these moments is to be deliberate – for managers to understand that the need to look for learning opportunities as they occur.  Managers have to become learning opportunity “hunters” – to approach the work that goes on every day with the curious question, “Where is the learning here?  How can George or Mary benefit from what just happened?”  So, to facilitate learning, managers have to be intentional about looking for learning moments or opportunities.  Intentional learning may be challenging but it comes down to a small (yet very important) shift in perspective. 
  • Managers must learn what to say when debriefing on learning that just occurred.  Just as these learning moments are fleeting, the conversations that can effectively trigger reflection and improvement on the part of the employee can also be short.  The questions to ask are also not complicated:
    • What did you do well (or are you proud of) just now?
    • How can we make this go even better next time? 

OR (if the employee or the team just went through a challenge or the project didn’t end up as expected)

  • What can you learn from this? 
  • How can we avoid this next time (if there has been a problem or a mistake, the reasons often go beyond one employee, so talking about “we” instead of “you” doesn’t remove the responsibility from the employee, simply means the employee doesn’t have to feel “cornered” as the “sole culprit” – you want to open a conversation that leads to better performance, not blaming that leads to defensiveness)

A debriefing conversation can often occur in stages.  Questions that ask the employee to reflect on what took place are effective when asked soon after the event, but the answers might take longer to arrive at, so the manager can come back to these a few days later – (but not too long).   

Learning from experience can provide significant benefit to the employee’s performance in several ways:

  • Better understanding the expectations of the manager and the organization
  • Building pride as they grow and develop
  • Helps employees find meaning in their work
  • Improved performance as they learn how to improve their abilities

These conversations will also help make your managers more effective!

Teaching managers to keep an eye out for leaning opportunities and how to do this is half the battle.  This leaves a few important questions:  How do you best teach this, and how do you make the leaning sustainable, so this can become a habit.  Stay tuned – we’ll come back to these question in our next blog. 

Are you hoping managers can deliver higher performance from their team? Could this type of support make a difference? Contact us if you could use a guided conversation process to help improve employee performance and employee-manager alignment.  We can be reached at info@engaged2perform.ca!   

We look forward to hearing from you.  

Best regards,