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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do I Convince Our Managers That Training for Skills Development Provides Value?

September 24, 2004
A Dear Hand-Wringer:

There appear to be two questions here. The first is: Can managers be friends with their subordinates? The second is: How can managers motivate employees to improve their skills? Let's address them one at a time.
Managers can be friendly with their employees, but it's difficult for them to be friends. All too often, friendship in the workplace between supervisor and subordinate leads to perceptions of favoritism and even charges of discrimination, causing irreparable harm. Good managers should be sensitive to their employees' feelings without becoming involved in them.
For example, it's good for morale and esprit de corps to socialize with staff members now and then, rotating the practice among everyone. But socializing with only one or two employees sends the wrong signal to everyone else--and makes it difficult to confront "friends" with matters of job performance they need to address. It may be difficult, especially for first-time supervisors, to get over this hurdle, but it is an essential step in their professional development.
Once managers get past the social aspect of being a good boss, they should have no problem motivating employees to improve their skills. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to incorporate a continuing-education goal into every employee's performance review.
At the beginning of the performance-review cycle, managers should sit down individually with each staff member and explain the importance to the organization of training to improve job-related skills. Such training both enhances employees' value to the organization and improves its competitive position (not to mention the career- development benefit that accrues to employees, thus making them more marketable).
Tell your managers to inform their staff members that participation in the desired training program is both expected and required. Employees need to know that completion of the training counts in their favor during performance reviews. Schedule a follow-up discussion to make sure employees have focused on their training goals. That way, no one will be surprised when the training component is included during the next round of performance reviews.
Finally, make it clear to these managers that getting their employees trained factors into their own performance reviews. That ought to help them grasp the emphasis that you and your organization place on training.
SOURCE: William J. Morin, WJM Associates, Inc., New York City.
LEARN MORE: Rockwell Collins' Training Needs Analysis.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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