Director of Learning Solutions Bray Leino Learning
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Ignore managers at your peril! Your L&D strategy won’t work without them

5th Jul 2016
Director of Learning Solutions Bray Leino Learning
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Managers are a crucial link between the business and employees but how many organisations focus in on them when designing or deploying learning strategies? In this article Stephanie Morgan of Bray Leino Learning looks at how L&D can leverage the relationship with managers to develop more impactful interventions. If you're interested in getting to grips with the learning metrics that really make a difference in today's workplace, download our whitepaper on the topic now.

The question of whether we should be measuring return on investment (ROI) or return on expectation (ROE) is an interesting one.

When individuals take responsibility for their own learning they will naturally have their own expectations of what they want to achieve. To measure how well the learning intervention has helped them to achieve against those expectations is perfectly reasonable.

Traditionally, L&D want to measure ROI so that they can demonstrate what they have invested on behalf of the business, and how much of a return the business has gained from it.

That might include all sorts of investments - apart from the obvious ones of time and budget there are the abstraction from the business, cost of venue or digital assets, and the L&D overhead itself.

In both cases though, ROI and ROE are measuring impact. Towards Maturity’s Levi Phillips says in his summary of the ‘In Focus – Making an impact: How L&D leaders can demonstrate value’ that whilst “impact is central to L&D activity, over nine out of ten L&D leaders want to deliver impact on the business but few are achieving their aims”.

Does L&D know what the business needs?

The report goes on to say that L&D struggle to understand what the business needs, especially when it is changing so quickly. We find that learners also struggle to be clear about what development they need, often lacking the language to describe their situation in relation to the way L&D makes their offering.

In the gap between ROI and ROE there is a very clear correlation to Learner Engagement.

For one thing, the whole idea of business ROI can feel like something is being done to you. Whereas the idea of you having your own expectations and  your own desire to achieve something for yourself brings about ownership, personal investment, commitment, and no doubt greatly increases any ROI that the business might aspire to.

Where L&D could really make a difference is recognising that, in reality, they need to aspire to both.

Learners need to be engaged and enthusiastic about learning, and managers need to recognise the value that learning brings in order for the business to see a real difference in performance. That way they really will have a win-win.

So how can the L&D professional get closer to the business to really understand the impact that is required, and at the same time motivate and inspire the learner to really own the expectations of the learning?

There is one obvious lever that can help both L&D and the learner. One person who can provide the insights L&D need and also galvanise and motivate the learner to not just have expectations of the learning but also to apply that learning back in the workplace.

That person is, of course, the manager.

Bridging the gap with the manager

The closer L&D can get to the managers who understand the business, its challenges, and their teams, the better L&D will be at scoping interventions that really will make an impact. The more managers feel that L&D understands them and is engaged with them, the more they will sell the benefits to the individual, another win-win.

In the ILM report ‘Positivity and performance: Taking action’, they report that managers, especially “those with small teams in large organisations – are the least happy, most stressed and poorest performers in the study. It is no coincidence that they also have the least access to training and development pathways.”

That is not surprising given the fact that over the last few years, managers have had to take on more and more, without any additional training or in many cases, without any support.

Development comes first

If we are to have resilient managers who can step up to the role of ‘Business Champion’, one who can be relied upon by L&D to articulate their business needs as well as someone who can motivate and enthuse their team, then we will need to invest in their development first.

It is unrealistic to expect so much from a group of people who are already stretched so thin.

Ironically, if L&D work with managers to understand their pressures and help address their needs, they will get an exponential ROI and also achieve the dual goal of ROE and Learner Engagement.

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