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If line managers are not involved in the employees’ learning journey, will anything really change?

19th October 2017

Members of your team go on a training course and you are optimistic of them coming back into the business with the new skills and behaviour needed to deliver the commercial priorities. The training they received is aligned to your core strategy and competency model so should be easy to reinforce on the job. However, when they get back in the workplace the behaviour change doesn’t happen.

Why would that be?

The biggest issue identified is the lack of or incorrect reinforcement they receive from their line managers. What happens too often is that the learner returns eager to embed the new learning and when they start to use the new process, tools, skills or behaviour they get told by their line manager that that is not the way we do it here. Additionally, the old habits of the line manager, not the new habits the business hoped to instil in the learner are the ones being reinforced, so no real behaviour change takes place.

The reason the line manager is not reinforcing the right behaviours is down to a lack of involvement in their team members’ learning journey. The line managers too often believe they know it all so don’t need to be trained on the new way of working the team are being trained on. This is a big mistake!

How to overcome that?

There are those businesses that have overcome this lack of engagement with the line managers of learners. This is called Leader Led Learning. Those businesses embracing the leader led learning approach are changing behaviour and embedding new habits into their business. Then there are those businesses that don’t embrace leader led learning. They continue to suffer from unrealised learner potential, waste time, money and have frustration in their teams due to mixed language, process and tools. This inevitably leaves behind business growth that could have been taken to the bank.

Businesses that embrace Leader Led Learning will move to a future where leaders are able to build and reinforce the capabilities of their teams through aligning their own knowledge, skills and behaviours to the new way before the learner goes on a learning event. The leader can even get to a point of being able to build the capability of the business on that subject as they become the internal Dean, leading training, coaching and on the job activities. The leaders can’t achieve this on their own. Leaders need to be provided with both the tools and techniques for doing so and the knowhow on how to utilize them.

So, what should the line manager do and how should they gain these skills?

At its simplest level, the line should initially be part of the individual learners learning needs discussion and they should jointly agree the learning priorities and learning events needed. Then when a learning event is on the horizon, the line manager should be briefed on the objective of the learning, the key changes expected and the key content the learner will experience. This prepares the line to have a pre-learning event discussion to lay out the expectations for the learner after the event. After the learning event, the line should receive a guide on how to support the learner back on the job so that a new habit is formed. This cycle repeats itself for every development event and the new habit of line manager engagement in the learning journey is established.

There is a second level of involvement the line can take which involves becoming the Leader of Excellence or internal Dean of a key business competency or skill. The approach is to select appropriate leaders and engage them on something they must embed with their teams as a new habit in the business. When the leaders are learning what needs to be embedded into the business, they are themselves learning the new way. The teams then have one business language and way of working and leaders are seen as the experts in the subject.  The leaders are also able to provide local knowledge to the learning improving relevance and applicability for the learner. This leads to a self-sustaining learning approach as the need for external training companies to train front line staff is significantly reduced. There are also the benefits of reach and cost. Being able to reach twice the learner base for the same budget or the same learner numbers for half the budget.

We at TN Group have supported businesses to implement a Leader Led Learning approach to thousands of line managers across the globe over a four-year period.

Let’s look at an example of this.

The business’ objective was to build capability and create a common global language on five core skills for a mass audience of   20,000 across 35 countries.

The approach used was to develop skill and behaviour based training content for the five subjects. Training on facilitation and coaching was prepared for the leaders, as was a rollout toolkit for them to use. Then the Leaders were trained as delegates of the content for two days followed by two days of training on facilitation skills and rehearsed delivery. Leaders of each skill then deployed three sessions in pairs over next year and received coaching support while doing it. A year later the Leaders were re-accredited.

The outcome was 1,182 Leaders trained in over 50 markets over the four years. They then deployed approximately 4,000 full training sessions and bit size sessions saving £16.4 million. This led to doubling the numbers of people trained for the same annual budget. The cost per person trained dropped from £1,620 to £776. The initiative was seen as the main contributor to improved Advantage Customer Satisfaction Survey results and Employee Engagement scores.

If you would like to build these benefits into your business, please reach out to me, Mark Macdonald, at Total Negotiation [email protected]


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