Learning in organizations should not be a solitary activity, at least not if you want employees to apply what they learned to their work and to achieving the strategic goals of the organization. Tim Mooney and Rob Brinkerhoff write in their book Courageous Training:

Training cannot succeed unless there is consistent commitment and action from several of the nontraining parts of the organization. Managers of trainees, for example, must provide the support, encouragement, and expectation for accountability so that employees try out training-acquired capabilities. Senior leaders must buy into and express a belief in the direction that training is steering toward. They must do this not only with words but also with actions. (p. 26)

Learners need to believe that learning is valued in the organization. They need to hear this message from senior management. Employees need to believe that someone in the organization cares about their development. This will usually be a boss or supervisor. Together, they should come to agreement about what is to be learned, why it is to be learned, and how the employee will apply the new knowledge or skills. The boss/supervisor should serve in a coaching role, guiding the learner to maximize opportunity for success. Learner and boss/supervisor should work toward these goals together - in alliance. They should have regular conversations about what the learner should be getting out of the training and how it will be applied to achieve intended work outcomes and contribute to achieve business goals.

Evidence strongly suggests that this alliance between employee and boss/supervisor has a positive effect on employee engagement. This is the conclusion from Fast Company's analysis of the Gallup research. Tony Schwartz writes:

The single most important variable in employee productivity and loyalty turns out to be not pay or perks or benefits or workplace environment. Rather, according to the Gallup Organization, it's the quality of the relationship between employees and their direct supervisors. More specifically, what people want most from their supervisors is the same thing that kids want most from their parents: someone who sets clear and consistent expectations, cares for them, values their unique qualities, and encourages and supports their growth and development.

This observation is supported by many studies conducted by the Advantage Performance Group of the impact of management and leadership training programs. These studies consistently show that when trainees talk with their bosses before and after training, they are much more likely to apply what they learned to achieve important business goals.

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