Continuous learning is a business necessity in today’s dynamic environment. Especially in industries such as information and communication technology, which are at forefront of technology-based innovation. The need for a skill refresh at both the individual and organizational level is driven by market and the need to stay current – with changing hot skills and real-time knowhow. This involves understanding possible skill adjacencies and learning trends in the industry.
In this context, Learning and Development takes on a renewed importance for IT and is an ongoing priority for various stakeholders such as L&D managers, HR managers, supervisors and employees themselves. While the L&D and HR work together to define the learning strategy and directions, it is the line manager who holds the knowledge needed to propel skill development within their team.
Line managers as learning champions
A learning champion serves as the “execution-link” between high-level learning roadmap and an employee. Encouraging people to learn the right things at the right time for the right outcomes is a supervisory skill, the champion guides and counsels his or her team to succeed. These are the managers, who help build organizational capabilities at the ground level.
How can managers become effective learning champions?
Line managers are the ones who are in day-to-day contact with their team members. They understand their team members’ motives, aspirations, strengths, and weakness. Therefore, they are in a position to enhance the career success of their teams. Here is a look at how managers can make this happen:
- Clear communication and engagement: It is the role of the manager to provide clarity in terms of career paths, job responsibilities, and performance expectations, for both current and future roles. This is possible when the manager is aware of the skillset landscape. For example, in IT providing recommendations on possible skills one can pick up based on current competencies, will be a useful learning input for career development.
A learning champion must understand the strategic direction of their function and the related skill impact. An important part of communication is also to create a culture of ongoing learning within the team, by conducting discussions on an ongoing basis and encouraging people to take time out for learning.
- Support and encourage access to learning tools: An IT manager must identify the team members’ learning needs on an ongoing basis and provide and encourage access to the right learning resources, at the right time. For example, in IT there is a focus on having a “full stack developers” capabilities, with a ‘blended learning approach’ using a variety of personalized learning tools including micro-learning, gamification, video-learning etc. These help employees learn more effectively and at their own pace and convenience.
IT managers play a vital role in not only nominating team members for learning interventions but also in creating learning content in association with the L&D and HR teams (especially functional content).
- Conduct coaching: The role of managers in coaching cannot be undermined. Day-to-day guidance and inputs on aspects such as employees’ professional journeys, available career paths are vital to employees’ growth. The advice may also be in terms of a distinct career change, for example from a hands-on technical role to a more project-management role in the IT space.
A manager is a strong influencer in an employee’s professional success. The right inputs from a learning perspective can help accelerate career growth. Of course, the main onus of learning and growth lies with the employees. In order for the self-directed learning model to succeed, supporting them is critical to the business.