Managers Need To Help Employees Learn and Grow

In today’s work environment, employees don’t often expect much support from their employer in the growth of their career. This might be true in the average workplace, but high-performing workplaces know that unleashing employee potential depends on manager support for development.

Managers help employees grow

A great manager is also a coach — someone who takes the time to truly understand their employees’ abilities and interests, then align them with the organization’s needs. Note this isn’t limited to formal training. Often the greatest development opportunities are new and challenging projects that help the organization grow.

At a typical organization, only 58% of employees responded positively when asked whether their manager helps them learn and grow, research has found. But at Top Workplaces, this jumps as high as 88%.

What to watch for

  • Managers who avoid development for fear of losing valued talent. Remind them employee growth is the organization's advantage and provide resources to support that.
  • Senior leaders who don't model employee development with their own direct reports.
  • Failing to recognize employee growth can take employees out of your own organization. Leave the door open for your talent to return when your paths align again.

Quick fixes

  • Encourage managers to learn — and care — about their employees’ career goals.
  • Remember, employees own their development, but they need manager support to really succeed.
  • Help managers keep an eye out for cross-training or development opportunities with interdepartmental manager meetings.
  • Make sure new job opportunities are publicized within the organization.

Big picture plans

  • Make learning a key part of the culture by celebrating all employee development.
  • Ensure managers are incentivized for the growth of their employees, even if it results in transitions across teams.
  • Equip managers with resources to support any development their employees need.

Here’s an example of what development sounds like: “My manager takes time to listen and helps me to be proactive about my career growth. She takes the time to talk about where I want to go and how she can help me to get there. She encourages me to think beyond my current role and what I want to do down the line.”

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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