Leader’s role in employee development

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Lead with Learning

A recent conversation I had with a Senior Manager of Learning and Development for a national organization went something like this:

“Our leaders need to be accountable for people development in our organization. It can’t be HR’s responsibility because it’s the leaders who are having the difficult conversations. They’re interacting with their people day in and day out. Therefore, they need to grow a culture of growth and development. If HR takes it on and offers a training program, it will always be just a program and won’t have a lasting impression. Our leaders need to coach and develop their people.”

Does this resonate with you? I’ve heard several versions in my conversations with leaders in human resources and learning and development. Leaders are struggling with the need to get their ‘work’ done and make time to invest in their employees’ learning and growth. But, focusing solely on ‘doing the work’ and getting results leads to short-term results instead of sustained growth. Organizations are crying for their people to be more innovative, creative and resilient to continue succeeding in our ever-changing, competitive landscape. When our leaders don’t spend time with their employees they aren’t building capability within their teams.

Leaders face several obstacles when it comes to nurturing growth and development within their teams. The relentless pace of our workplace leaves little room for what’s often perceived as ‘extra’ activities. Many leaders feel unequipped for developmental conversations. They lack confidence in their coaching skills and are uncomfortable with confrontational or overly personal discussions. Some leaders fear making promises they can’t keep, whether due to policy constraints or budget limitations, so avoid having career development conversations.

Even when leaders are willing and create time for development conversations, they often don’t know where to begin. They’re unsure in what area an employee needs to develop and the best course of action. They need a way to assess their employee’s skills and a career path or guide to help direct their development. Without this, they look to Human Resources to take ownership and chart the course for their employee’s learning and growth.

As I shared in my conversation earlier with the Senior Manager, Learning and Development, integrating learning directly within the team is the key to building team capability and increasing innovation, creativity and resiliency. By equipping our leaders with tools, resources (including time) and skills, they can coach and build capability within their teams. These are three areas to focus on:  

  • Learning Mindset: Cultivate a learning mindset encourages curiosity, courage to take risks learning from mistakes and lifelong learning.
  • Team Culture: Help leaders take ownership of coaching and developing their employees, resulting in caring and empathetic leadership and more skill building instead of doing.
  • Organization Support: Ensure the organization is clear about the expectations, leaders have the resources they need and are celebrated for their efforts.

Even with a team of two, there’s an opportunity to grow and develop. My Practice Administrator started as an Administrative Assistant two years ago. Over time, she’s taken on increasingly challenging tasks. Initially, it took me time to guide, coach and provide her with feedback. But, over time, she’s able to take on more. She’s challenged and learning new things. I can do less administrative work and focus on working directly with clients – the work I love!

I’ve shared some additional posts online. Here they are, in case you missed them.  

  • Elevating Team Performance Through Learning – (video link
  • How learning in teams supports the shift from industrial to digital – (video link
  • Better results by focusing on performance and learning goals – (video link
  • Survival depends on our ability to adapt – (video link
  • Henry Ford a case study in prioritizing production over innovation and development – (video link)  

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Hannah Brown

I help close the gap between formal training from learning and development and leaders fostering learning on their teams to embed it into their DNA.