7 ways managers can play a role in employees' career development

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About four in 10 (43%) managers surveyed in Singapore 'strongly agree' that managers should actively promote L&D to employees, as do more than one-third of employees (33%).

Managers play a key role in many aspects of an employee's journey with the organisation — and career development is, without a doubt, one of them. Not only are managers involved in getting employees' buy-in, but they also have a hand in shaping a learning culture within the organisation.

On that note, according to NTUC LearningHub’s State of Workplace Learning (SWL) Report 2022, 31% of employees surveyed say their managers are the most important stakeholder in building a culture of lifelong learning at the workplace; while 25% of managers say so.

Interestingly, both groups displayed a strong consensus that managers are well positioned to lead and promote learning & development (L&D) at the workplace:

  • about four in 10 (43%) managers 'strongly agree' that managers should lead by example and take up training themselves, as do 35% of employees.
  • a similar percentage of managers 'strongly agree' that managers should actively promote L&D to employees, as do more than one-third of employees (33%).

In that vein, the report noted that to get the most out of investments in L&D, managers must embrace a broader role within the organisation as they are the first line of contact in identifying skills gaps in their department and play an influential role in the career development of their employees

The report thus highlighted seven ways managers can play a part in driving employees' career development:

#1 Avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach

A one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best for everyone, when it comes to implementing a learning programme at the workplace.

By accounting for learner’s preferences, diversity, and flexibility in the way they learn, managers can continue to deliver learning that benefits the employee as well as the organisation.

#2 Create open communication and a safe environment for feedback

Open communication can go a long way in building trust and understanding between managers and their teams. Additionally, by conducting regular skills reviews with employees, in the right environment to spot and close gaps, managers are then able to foster a growth and learning mindset.

Therefore, it is essential for managers to create a nurturing space that encourages employees to speak up, discuss challenges, and raise questions.

#3 Encourage soft skills training and avoid 'pigeonholing'

Pure technical skills are not enough to thrive in today’s world. Instead, one needs more human skills such as empathy, strong communication, adaptability, and collaborative skills among others.

Soft skills have become even more important for people in the digital age, as these skills allow employees to form deeper connections and build trust in their organisation.

As such, managers should make it a point to offer employees opportunities to expand their skill sets and knowledge in order to go forward in their career, and not remain stagnant with their current skills and abilities.

#4 Gain stakeholder buy-in

Having the top leadership’s buy-in to L&D priorities and cultivating a learning culture would be highly influential in gaining support from the ground. Budgets may have been reduced during the pandemic, but management needs to see L&D as an investment rather than a cost, it was pointed out in the report.

#5 Train managers to lead by example

In order for employees to thrive with the right training and L&D programmes, managers need to be equipped with skills on managing and coaching their employees, so as to have the emotional intelligence to look after their employees' wellbeing.

#6 Factor L&D into work performance and appraisal

A learning environment also needs processes that promote training, knowledge acquisition, performance monitoring, and management to facilitate learning in the team.

It is key for managers to have conversations with their employees around L&D and how it plays into their performance; allowing employees to leverage and apply what they have learnt into their actual performance.

#7 Partner with external consultants and continuous education & training providers

Organisations without an in-house L&D department should consider partnering with an external CET provider who specialises in providing insights into the organisation’s agenda. External expertise can bring the learning strategy to life with recommendations of specific skills and resources to address the organisation’s skills gap.

[ALSO READ: Managers across the globe are feeling wedged between leadership & employee expectations]

The above findings in the SWL Report were derived based on a survey of 450 full-time professionals in Singapore, including 150 managers and 300 working professionals.


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