Learn more about the pivotal role that managers play in organizational learning — understanding more about their power to drive change.
Get to know more about positive learning cultures and what they look like.
Hear results from the “How the Workforce Learns” study and what that means for management and learning.
L&D can have a positive impact on their organizations via the promotion of better performance and agility, as well as underpinning business growth and adaptability.
Despite this role, it’s often managers who are on the coalface of learning: being in the make-or-break position that determines whether their reports can develop their skills and careers. To find out more about the role managers play, Jon Kennard, Editorial Content Manager at UNLEASH is joined by Amritha Murali, Head of Corporate Functions L&D at Anglo American, and Sarah Danzl, VP Communications & Customer Marketing at Degreed to shine a light on creating positive learning cultures and why it’s important for managers to encourage development.
Blindly creating learning content is really pointless unless someone feels like there is a need. Amritha Murali, Head of Corporate Functions L&D at Anglo American.
At the start of the webinar, Danzl kicked off by asking what it is that attendees thought might improve their organization’s approach to L&D. The top answer: more transparency around opportunities to progress and practice, followed by more guidance on what to learn. It turned out that those on the webinar wanted to know how to move forward and roll out the right learning opportunities for a quickly evolving world of work as well as how to show learners how to put these skills into action.
It’s a lot for L&D functions to contend with. Throw into the mix pressure to deliver more, in a faster, cheaper, more engaging, and more entertaining manner and, well, it’s undeniable that the heat is on. However, this pressure is a good thing for the function. Learning and skills are now on the CEO’s agenda with a better understanding of the role that skills play in the employee experience of work, digital transformation, and organizational success. Wrapped up in this is increased understanding that learning is not just for job readiness and compliance but can be used to empower both individuals and businesses.
In fact, as Danzl explained in the webinar, traditional approaches to learning can be expanded on by giving managers better know-how around learning. If they are tracking the progress of their reports, stretching their skills, allowing peer-to-peer learning, and encouraging people to indicate their strengths (and develop areas where they are weaker) learning can be improved.
Danzl added that recent Degreed research has shown the central importance of the manager in learning. Their survey results show that in positive learning cultures, learners are 92% more likely to say their manager supports their development, 67% more likely to say their learned skills are being put to good use, and 379% more likely to say their manager found assignments to projects to practice or stretch them on.
In fact, as Danzl explained, managers have a key role in delivering in-the-moment feedback, helping employees parse what future opportunities learning can lead to, and understanding how learning relates to their performance. They are also a critical pivot in marketing any new learning from HR and L&D: sharing comms, rewarding learning, helping to benchmark the team, encouraging learning behaviors, and setting new learning goals.
However, whilst the data shows that managers play a critical role, it’s not just on them. Danzl added that the creation of a positive organizational learning culture, diverse opportunities, actionable insights, and time for learning needs to be shared.
That said, she added that managers can create the time and space for learning, encouraging continuous learning and trying to get their teams engaged in learning content. In fact, it is in organizations with positive learning cultures where managers are more likely to recommend learning opportunities, give their reports time to practice or stretch their skills, and create career plans related to their team member’s skills. They’re also more likely to do regular check-ins, hold career conversations, provide feedback and undertake performance reviews, too.
On the webinar, Anglo American’s Murali revealed the mining company’s approach to learning. In her view, for learning to succeed it needs to be geared toward a company’s purpose, not be overwhelming, and be delivered within a psychologically safe culture that promotes and supports learning.
At Anglo American, they first go through a thorough product development stage, using design thinking to incorporate different learning preferences, the needs of the individual, and the needs of the organization into product design. Then they think about effective distribution: considering how any new learning approach or program needs an adjacent change management strategy, as well as leadership sponsorship, different pilot rollouts, and a comms plan.
This comms plan, according to Murali, should consider cadence, teaser campaigns, and key distributors, as well as how to get organic exposure — considering how to make a campaign around learning go viral, and getting employees excited.
Alongside this, Anglo American also considers the holistic skills picture in something they call the Esther Perel approach. Here they think about an employee’s ‘Alternate CV’: understanding that an employee brings much more than their hard skills and role-specific technical skills but, in order to create adequate learning and pathways for development for them, the employer has to consider their soft skills, what interactions they know how to manage in the workplace and their relational intelligence. In this way, they can improve lattice development pathways and help understand cross-disciplinary skills the organization might already own.
Crucially, Anglo American, explained Murali, are always thinking about refining their approach. They get feedback, consider new needs and bring individual and business goals into their thinking.
In this way, Danzl added, although it is clear that managers have a central role L&D is crucial, too. It is L&D and HR that can help create positive conditions for learning and support the CEO in leading learning initiatives. It is these functions that take a stewarding role in learning, too; with Degreed research finding that it is in positive learning cultures that L&D and HR are more likely to help learners find learning.
As such, managers and L&D need synergy for learning to succeed.
 
Head of Content Labs and Insights, UNLEASH
Head of Corporate Functions L&D, Anglo American
VP Communications & Customer Marketing, Degreed
UNLEASH Group LTD
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