Employees learn best when they have guidance, support, and performance feedback from someone they trust and respect in the organization. Ideally, this is a boss, supervisor, coach, or mentor who knows why that learning is important and how it aligns with strategic business goals. Managers, at all organizational levels, should have regular learning-focused conversations with the people who report to them. In these conversations, described in our book, The 5As Framework, managers should ask:

  1. What do you need to learn in order to help this organization achieve its business goals? Small5a
  2. Given what you need to learn, what should be your specific learning objectives for the short-term and long-term?
  3. How will you and I know if you are making progress toward and achieving those objectives?
  4. How can I help you get the most out of your learning opportunities?
  5. What resources do you need and how can I help you get them?
  6. What should be our schedule for regular conversations about your progress?
  7. What do we need to change about this plan?

The key to making this a successful relationship is to keep the focus on how the employee’s learning and performance improvement will contribute to achieving business goals. Companies can no longer (as if they ever could) afford to allow employees to participate in learning activities simply because they are an enjoyable break from the routine, a motivating perk, or conveniently scheduled. Managers must make sure that the time, effort, and money invested in their direct reports is contributing to the organization being successful.