Manager support is one of the most important factors contributing to successful learning initiatives. Training their employees is a critical role for managers, and managers who participate in development gain through the insights they obtain, as well as from the performance improvement of their team.

In their everyday work, managers have many opportunities to support learning initiatives as they:

• set the example and relate it to what is taught in training

• reinforce the skills taught in eLearning

• recognize improvements in employee performance that come from applying what they learned

• participate in upskilling employees

• create opportunities for on-the-job-practice

• set performance goals related to what is taught

However, to use these opportunities, managers and front-line supervisors must know about the learning initiatives and their objectives. This means it is important for instructional designers to communicate the information, in language that is meaningful to the managers and supervisors.

At the same time, obtaining that managerial support can still be a challenge. What are other ways that instructional designers can help managers support employee learning?

This is a question that has been addressed many times in Learning Solutions. In the remainder of this article, I will cite some of the answers that writers have offered.

Make it a cooperative effort

JD Dillon observed in “In Real Life: The Most Important Person in Workplace Learning” that the frontline manager almost always has “a bigger impact on the employee learning experience than any other person. The person in this role can make or break an employee’s ability to improve their performance.”

JD suggests five ways to partner with frontline managers:

• Build learning opportunities into the workflow

• Provide actionable information that informs managers’ coaching efforts

• Teach frontline managers to be effective teachers

• Make on-demand performance-support resources available to managers

• Jump in and help

Do it right from the start

Involve the manager from the beginning. Bring managers into the learning development process.

For example, in “Get Managers on Board with Benefits of Accessible eLearning”, Pam Hogle suggests, “As part of development, show managers that accessible eLearning produces better results across the board, with all learners. Accessible eLearning leads to greater engagement and improved retention because it gives everyone a chance to learn and connect. Accessible eLearning is more than just ‘the right thing to do.’” Four leading eLearning developers present their insights into the benefits of creating accessible content in Creating Accessible eLearning: Practitioner Perspectives.

In “Nuts and Bolts: Getting Management Support for Training”, Jane Bozarth recommends these courses of action, among others :

• Involve management in course design

• Involve managers in completion and evaluation processes

• Provide orientation sessions for managers on new training initiatives

• Work inside the organization to establish managers as the ones primarily responsible for development of their own staff

• Invite managers to serve as co-trainers

Managers can even help build social learning

Managers can nurture conditions where community can develop. They do this by providing “scaffolding”: a safe space for colleagues to build networks, develop trust among members, and share information.

In such a space, Julian Stood and Trina Rimmer suggested in a panel discussion that “more experienced members often mentor less experienced members, and professionals share knowledge—as well as their own successes and failures—with the goals of improving their own practice and helping other members improve as well.” Mentoring and coaching skills can also be an important topic for manager and supervisor training.

Want more?

At The eLearning Guild's February 19-20 Online Conference, Making Learning Stick, Laura van den Ouden will present "Activating the Manager's Role in Supporting Learning".

In this session you will learn various ways you can help managers more easily and naturally support learning. We'll examine the three stages of learning where the support of leaders and managers are crucial, and you'll learn why an active manager in learning is important (and will become even more important in the future for organizations). You'll learn more specifically what their role in learning should be, and explore 30 activities that managers can use to support employees in their learning. You leave this session being able to inspire managers in your organization with practical tips to better support employee learning.

Registration for Making Learning Stick is open!