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Remember the old days of training and development (T&D)? I do: The T&D department at my company published an annual calendar of courses offered for managers and employees. The catalog was first distributed on paper, then on the intranet and eventually via learning management systems (LMS)—the distribution evolved as new technology emerged, but the concept didn't.

Traditionally, it was up to managers to identify training needs for their employees, find relevant courses and send employees off to training, which usually involved formal, "butts in seats" courses delivered either in person or virtually. For employees, this process was passive—someone was training them in an area that someone else decided they needed to master.

Learning, on the other hand, is active. To learn, employees have to take an active role in absorbing content, engaging with it and applying it to their work. The term “learning" is more appropriate in today's workplace, which is why learning and development (L&D) has replaced T&D. But changing the name of a department doesn't fix the problem. For learning and development to take place effectively, L&D teams, managers and learners have to develop a sense of ownership and accountability.

L&D teams must actively engage employees and their leaders during the learning process. Here are 3 L&D best practices your team should adopt to better engage employees and their leaders.

Prepare Managers and Employees for Learning

To get employees excited about an upcoming learning event, help managers create a sense of urgency by demonstrating the link between new skills and job performance. Make sure that managers not only recognize that learning is an investment in employee and business success, but that they can also effectively explain this to learners.

These days, most managers are so busy that they don't take time to think about how the work of their department, or their individual employees, can be improved. L&D teams can have a real business impact by breaking tasks down into key skills and competencies that, if improved, will boost results. This will enable the manager to help the employee recognize the opportunity provided by the learning event.

Suggest Learning by Teaching

Another effective L&D best practice that helps create a highly engaging learning experience is to have employees share learning content and teach each other.

Managers can identify one small chunk of knowledge that would be beneficial, and send an employee on a research mission to learn and impart that knowledge to the rest of the team. Perhaps this involves speaking with a product manager about a new product and preparing a presentation summarizing key takeaways, or learning about a new piece of equipment through YouTube and bringing a hands-on demonstration back to the team.

Help managers brainstorm teaching assignments for their employees, and encourage them to take responsibility for learning in their department.

Set Feedback Loops in Motion

Follow up, follow up, follow up. L&D departments need to start dialogues with managers after their employees have participated in learning events, and insist that managers talk with their teams about what they've learned.

Provide them with some questions that they can discuss with employees, such as how the learning relates to their job, and how they want to measure any improvement in performance. When managers help employees own improvement, there is a greater chance for it to stick long term. L&D can coach managers on linking learning to performance, too.

Overall, there are many benefits to an ongoing dialogue between L&D departments, managers and employees throughout the learning process. Through these consistent conversations and by following our L&D best practices, you can help build subject matter expertise, reinforce the importance of the new knowledge and strengthen teams.

Photo: Creative Commons