In line for feedback

Increasing responsibility for T&D rests with line managers, but how much time do they put into it and how effective is their involvement? Sue Clark asks a cross-section of organisations for their experiences


Gary Miles


Programme director


Roffey Park Management Institute


Our survey of 180 line managers and team members in 1999 showed that the majority recognise development as an effective way to improve performance, increase motivation or bring about change.

The key types of development interventions most commonly used are coaching, feedback, counselling, on-the-job training, mentoring, help with the selection of courses, work shadowing and arranging visits to other organisations.

However, the survey revealed that nearly 30 per cent of line managers spend less than eight hours a month developing others, while 47 per cent spend between eight and 16 hours on development.

Time was cited as a major barrier to effective coaching and development, while feedback was hampered if the culture in the organisation did not encourage openness.

There was also a mixed response to the idea of reward for developing people. Some see developing others as a normal part of their job while others believe they should get a financial reward linked to team performance.

Evaluating the development of others also appears to be a significant challenge and line managers clearly need more help with this.


Glenda Martin


Training and development manager


Boots the Chemist, Ireland


I’m not surprised by the figures from Roffey Park, but you have to focus on the other aspects of development beyond the recognised training and development that goes on between the individual and his or her line manager.

At Boots development is one of the key elements of their job, but it is often done indirectly, for example by facilitating learning through buddy systems where individuals meet with their peers and share information. The line managers will set these groups up and monitor them but they won’t actually take part.

More directly, line managers provide coaching and leadership, and they cascade learning down.

They are also part of projects and working parties where groups will co-operate to achieve a goal.

Development activities are sandwiched between pre and post briefings that focus on how to transfer any learning back into the work place.

Their role in training and development is crucial to the organisation.


Chris Jefferies


Head of training


First Quench


There is a danger where a training and development function exists within an organisation that line managers, consciously or not, will not view T&D as part of their job, especially when they have other priorities.

We emphasise the role of our line managers’ involvement in development by equipping them with coaching skills.

Then we have a process whereby the line managers become self-sufficient. They identify any training need and then solve it from their own resources.

An individual from the team will provide the expertise to develop others, the T&D function equips them with the skills.

For example we have been running a cascade programme where an evangelist or coach is chosen from each training event to pass on the skills to the next group. It started at board level and is working its way to our 20,000 staff who are based at 2,500 retail units around the UK.

It is a bit of a trade off, a compromise on quality. But we need to deliver a great deal to many people rather than a little to a few.

Training in our organisation is like fishing: we teach our people how to do it, rather than give them the fish.


Mike Spiller


Group personnel and training director


Granada Food Services


Line managers play an important role in training and development within our organisation as we believe it is the most effective way to improve performance and motivation. It is sufficiently important to be included in the job descriptions of all line managers.

Professional trainers instruct managers on how to train, and they have developed modules and materials which enable the line managers to conduct the training with their teams.

And as we promote training as a line responsibility, our trainers report to the managing directors, thereby ensuring the training of line managers and that of their teams is focused on the needs of the business, individuals and teams.

We also encourage line managers’ own development using internal and external sources.

If a line manager is being developed then it is more likely they will be encouraged to develop their own staff.

However, training only becomes really effective when it is owned by line managers and is linked to business, individual and group needs.


Kirsten Barclay


Human resources manager


Welsh Development Agency


Many training and development experts believe that individual training needs are best identified jointly by the line manager and individual team member.

But if the individual and manager are best placed to identify individual training needs, does it necessarily follow that they are best placed to identify the most appropriate means of addressing the need?

Managers and their teams are often not aware of the different ways that learning can occur and inevitably fall back upon the trainer-led course, neglecting other learning methodologies such as project work, CBT, professional networks, even the precursor of much CBT – directed reading!

Nonetheless, devolving HR to the line means that managers increasingly have a role in identifying and addressing training needs in their teams.

The inevitable next step is devolving some if not all of the training budget to line managers for their local level training.

Ideally managers will then have an explicit objective in their annual appraisal – developing team members.

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