The role of the manager in the learning of their teams (Part 1)

Due to the rapid increase in the pace of organisational change, the role of the manager for maximising the development opportunities of others has seen them become a central figure in delivering a strategically-integrated model of Human Resource Development (Garavan 1997). There are numerous means for Managers to facilitate the learning of others, and there is also a great body of work that points to barriers that Manager’s face in such endeavours. For the sake of expediency I will draw attention to a few key issues to emphasise our argument for the promotion of both formal and informal learning.

Delegating responsibilities to subordinates is often seen as an appropriate means of providing colleagues with learning opportunities that will stretch their capabilities. This is of course accurate; however there is often a fine line between delegation and abdication. So how do organisations ensure that their Managers are actually delegating work that will enable others to learn, involving subordinates in the decision making process as a means of developing them (Eraut et al 1999); and not simply fobbing work onto colleagues with little hope of successful completion or focus on their developmental gaps? There are numerous models that can assist Manager’s in recognising appropriate development gaps and the delegation of tasks to provide opportunity to plug these shortcomings; however the Manager’s themselves must be afforded the opportunity to learn how to utilise these models first. Unless they are given the space to learn and develop such intrinsic skills and knowledge, there can be little hope of their application of successful informal learning. Story notes that “managers who have themselves received little education and training are less likely to recognise or approve the need for investment in the training of their subordinate” (1992: 213). This point highlights the symbiotic relationship between formal and informal learning; for Managers to be able to successfully lead with informal learning opportunities for their subordinates, they themselves must have formal development in the tools, techniques and skills that facilitate informal learning; the behavioural change required to develop others begins once the initial formal development of these skills has taken place. Put simply, you cannot have one without the other.
Eraut, M., Alderton, J., Cole, G. and Senker, P. (1999) ‘The Impact of the Manager on Learning in the Workplace’, in F. Coffield (ed.) Speaking Truth to Power: Research and Policy on Lifelong Learning, pp. 19-29. Bristol: Policy Press.

Garavan, T. N. (1997) ‘Training, Development, Education and Learning: Different or the Same?’, Journal of European Industrial Training 21(2): 39-50

Story, J. (1992) Management of Human Resources. Oxford: Blackwell