Published on

May 29, 2020

Why and How To involve managers in corporate learning

Jannik Weichert photo

Jannik Weichert

Managing Director


Learning Hub

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A question mark drawn on a piece of paper

Leadership involvement

— The puzzle piece you’ve been missing.

Reskilling the workforce and quickly adapting to a continuously changing environment is more important than ever. According to a McKinsey study 90% of executives report that their organization is either currently facing skill gaps or expected to be facing them soon. And this study was “way back” in May 2019. The current Covid-19 pandemic contributes its share as well, resulting in an even higher need for reskilling and upskilling programs within companies.

Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. — McKinsey, 2020.

There is a lot of wide ranging content available out there. Especially during the current Corona crisis many companies bought new content in order to provide their employees with necessary learning materials. But while todays e-learning platforms and online course libraries make it relatively easy to provide training opportunities that are accessible from everywhere, a successful training strategy includes much more than that. Because availability of content alone simply isn’t enough.

For starters, one-size-fits-all content is certainly not right for everyone. Employees don’t know where to start and what to learn, as a result drop-off rates are high and engagement rates low. This is accompanied by the fact, that a lot of employees don’t even see learning as a high priority, especially during Corona.

One important key component, that helps you to address these complications effectively, is the involvement of your leadership in the learning process.

One-size-fits-all learning leaves learners frustrated.

So in this article, we would like to show you why involving your leadership matters in the first place and what concrete actions will help you to effectively involve them.

Why should you involve your leadership?

1. Their knowledge is key to your success

The long-term success of your organization will depend heavily on the fact, whether you are able to identify the relevant skill gaps and address them respectively. And no one knows current skills, needed future skills & resulting skill gaps better than the functional leaders of your organization: They don’t only have detailed knowledge about the current skillset of their direct reports but typically also have a pretty good overview on your company’s (skill) development needs.

Tapping into this knowledge pool can help you to design your learning programs and determine exactly what employees to upskill or reskill in what particular area.

2. They are a key driver of employee satisfaction and motivation

Leaders have a huge impact on employee motivation.

If your leadership does not value learning & develment, how should your staff?

Managers have a huge impact on employees. This also applies to learning efforts within your company. 2/3 employees would be more motivated to learn, if their direct manager was involved. Let managers become advocates for your learning programs and communicate the value of employee growth within your company through them.

Additionally, a manager that is taking (e-)learning classes herself has a positive side-effect on your team and company culture: She is not seen as never failing and all-knowing but as a person that wants to develop, for her own good and the good of the company.

3. They can ensure that knowledge is put into practice

New skills gained during e-learning courses or offline training classes will not stick very long if your employees don’t get the opportunity to apply them in practice.

So you should try to create practice opportunities. Ideally in a safe environment, where it is alright to fail and improve in the process. Your managers could create such opportunities. If they are involved in the training process, they know exactly what employee is learning what skill. Thus, they could plan department projects and assign responsibilities to employees based on their newly gained knowledge.

And how can you actually do that?

Simply knowing of the importance of leadership involvement will not directly lead to you actually achieving it. So here are our top three strategic tips in order to drive leadership involvement.

1. Make it mandatory

You could make sure leadership involvement is mandatory for every single manager within your company that oversees direct reports. E.g. learning & development goal-setting could be a non-negotiable item in feedback meetings, and a mandatory element in the employee evaluation process.

Additionally, you could make it mandatory that employees are granted the necessary time for learning. Try to make sure, that learning becomes a priority and is not overlooked due to all the other, short-term and thus seemingly more relevant tasks.

Integrate learning goals in feedback meetings.

2. Make it visible

Let your leadership walk the talk

You could set examples and show your employees that their leadership is actively taking part in learning offers themselves. For example, create an internal learning & development newsletter that integrates posts from managers writing about what they have been learning during the last couple of weeks. Propose to your CEO to film a short video or let her be part of a podcast emphasizing the value of learning within your company. You can become as creative as you want to be as long as the main message “learning is important and valued @ Company X” comes across.

3. Make it rewarding

Developing team members is one of the tasks with the highest degree of leverage for your company that a manager can do. However, only rarely functional leads are actually rewarded for that task. You could think of ways to change that. Try to set incentives for becoming part of your learning & development programs. Examples could be to set a price trophy for the best internal development program or making it part of a 360 degree feedback survey. Again, you can think of other creative ways specific to your company.

Final thoughts

All in all, involving your leadership can be — when done correctly — a huge game changer for the success of your L&D programs and ultimately the long-term success of your company. So try make sure you use this opportunity. Despite of a managers’ tied schedule.

Lastly, we would like to know: what benefits have you experienced when involving managers in your learning programs? Have you experienced bottlenecks? What worked well? In case you would like to exchange ideas with us we would be happy to hear about your individual learnings! Just reach out via

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edyoucated is funded by leading research institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).