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Manager Engagement in Employee Learning: More Work or More Reward?

I was asked during my recent ASTD Webcast whether there’s data toshow that managers, who are more involved in training and learning, ultimately receive more rewards and recognition than those MP900448690 who aren't. This is the what’s-in-it-for-me question that managers ask themselves when they are asked to do something in addition to their usual job.

While I’m not aware of research that ties training-involved managers with their own success in companies, I am aware of very successful companies who value highly the role of managers in training and learning and recognize and reward that involvement.

One of these companies is Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. The internationally famous deli and gourmet food retailer in Ann Arbor, Michigan that Inc. Magazine calls “the coolest small company in America,” applies the 5As Framework to manager involvement in the development of their employees. All managers are expected to: 1) provide context for training; 2) reinforce how training helps employee/trainee to be successful; and 3) help trainees put learning from training to good use. 

Google, recently named the second most valuable global brand and rated the “best company to work for” by Fortune four years in a row, is constantly learning from itself. Prasad Setty, head of POPS (people analytics), which is Google’s HR department, says:

We make thousands of people decisions every day—who we should hire, how much we should pay them, who we should promote, who we should let go of. What we try to do is bring the same level of rigor to people decisions that we do to engineering decisions. Our mission is to have all people decisions be informed by data.

Google has a culture in which people ask questions and learn from the answers. They set policy based on information that they gather about their own employees. For example, they asked themselves, “What are the characteristics of the highest performing managers?” They identified eight qualities that are now used to develop new managers and coach the lowest performing managers.

Zaxby’s, a franchisor of gourmet chicken restaurants with 20,000 employees and recently featured in an ASTD Best Webcast Series, has made training and development part of every manager’s job. Store-level managers have control of employee learning. And, because of this, store managers have embraced continuous learning for themselves and for their employees. Training and learning permeates the stores; it's not housed at the corporate office as is the case with many franchise organizations.  As a result, employee compliance with training has increased 300%, the new role (and an improved training program) saved millions of dollars for franchisees, and they believe they have produced better training and better managers.

Zingerman’s, Google, and Zaxby’s are great examples of the impact of manager involvement in training and learning. This isn’t proof that all managers who engage in employee learning will be recognized and rewarded in their organizations, but in organizations that value learning, managers are key to success. 

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