Managers of employees have a critical role to play in employee learning. These managers are in the best position to help employees acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. By asking questions, by assigning opportunities to apply knowledge and skills, by modeling expected behavior, by providing timely information, by coaching application of learning, and by giving performance feedback, they can facilitate learning and, therefore, performance improvement of their direct reports. 

As I explained in a post on ASTD's Workforce Development Blog, four trends are increasing the importance of a manager's role as faciliator of learning:

  1. Technology has contributed to a DIY environment for learning. The Internet has become a MP900411819
    tremendoous source of knowledge and skills. Employees don't need HR and training professionals to provide all of their learning opportunities anymore.  What employees do need is someone who is readily accessible and knows the job who can guide them through the process of learning that results in performance improvement.
  2. Technology has also made it possible to individualize instruction. Now we can "push" information to employees based on their individual learning needs and learning styles. Managers can ensure that this information gets to each employee when, where, and how that person needs it.
  3. The accelerating pace of change and competition means that every employee must be learning continuously. Course schedules and annual meetings are insufficient. Managers must make continuous learning part of everyone's job. 
  4. The vast amount of information, with a wide range of quality, makes it necessary for managers and their direct reports to be agile learners. They must be able to sort through the extraneous and useless information and turn what remains into knowledge and skills that can improve performance. Managers must become curators of performance-related information.

Managers who could model behavior, teach skills, and give useful feedback have always been the most effective supervisors. Now, because of these trends, that role as facilitator of learning is expanding and is more important than ever.