Great managers put their team's development first


Managers can make or break an employee’s time at a company. The saying goes that people don’t leave organisations, they leave bad managers.  

While research suggests that is one of a handful of reasons for attrition, there’s no doubt that managers play a critical role. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s interests to develop the skills and abilities of their organisation’s management.  

One clear way of doing this is through career development. Now, that doesn’t just mean developing the managers themselves, although that does play a crucial role.

It also means instilling a culture of career development in your managers so that they can help grow the people in their teams. 

The first contact for development

It’s really important that employees come to line managers as the first point of career support for employees. However, only 16% of employees state that they have ongoing, meaningful career conversations with their managers.  

Another 60% said they’d like more input on their development from managers. Given that managers often have more experience, they can be a great resource for team members seeking to follow in their footsteps. 

Boosting retention and motivation

 Managers who prioritise the career development of their teams benefit in many ways. But most significantly, career development opportunities make employees stay with a company for longer. 

That’s shown by findings that 72% of millennials and 64% of Generation X value career development in their respective companies. Offering individuals the opportunity to learn and grow within their roles tend to lead to higher levels of motivation. 

Helping their organisation as a whole

Managers should recognise that employees are not going to remain in their team - or company - for decades. Eventually, people move on. 

Instead of focusing on keeping employees on their team, managers should help employees make the best of their time at the company. Only by helping employees become their best selves while in their current role, managers can help their teams become more productive and put together higher quality work. 

With organisations increasingly breaking down silos, individuals can more freely move between teams or departments as a way of retaining talent.  

In response, managers need to take a more holistic view and consider what’s best for their direct report, within the context of their organisation as a whole, rather than just what’s best for their team. 

Improving the employer brand

When someone eventually leaves the team of a development-focused manager, it’ll be a great experience for them. That makes them a massive promoter of the employer brand. That employee may eventually return or recommend others to work for the organisation.  

These ‘boomerang employees’ are becoming more appealing for HR managers. Now 76% would consider hiring a former employee. 

Plugging the skills gap

 Attracting employees with the right digital skills is becoming more difficult. The European Commission estimates that 756,000 roles will remain unfilled in the IT sector by 2020.  

By developing in-demand skills such as data analysis and user experience design internally, organisations can reduce pressure on external recruitment. Managers will play a crucial role in this, because they’re best placed to identify key members of their team who are well-suited to and interested in developing in-demand skills that their organisation needs. 

For that reason, managers should prioritise career development. To achieve this, managers should focus on three main areas: 

1. Hold regular career conversations

 Managers should prioritise meaningful conversations with team members about their career aspirations and development priorities. With a clearer view on what their team members are shooting for, they can help them to shape effective career goals and check-in regularly to discuss their progress and tackle challenges they’re facing.  

While annual appraisals remain important, we recommend holding more informal development discussions monthly - or at least quarterly. This could be as casual as a quick coffee or check-in with team members.  

2. Shape interesting and challenging work

 Where possible, give employees work that matches their employees’ long-term career goals. Managers can do this by understanding what motivates an employee and where their strengths lie.  Stretch assignments may offer another perspective beyond their department that keeps the working day interesting. However, it’s important to recognise that not all tasks are going to be exciting and so having an open conversation about the realities of the job is important too.  The trick is to find a balance between the mundane and motivating.


3. Connect and nurture

 The best managers understand that they are not the fount of all knowledge. Instead, they can identify when they are not best placed to help and instead point employees towards others who can.  These ‘Connector’ Managers are the least common but most effective managers. Therefore, managers should be willing to use their wider network to nurture their employees and help each team member find the mentors, coaches and resources that can help them progress. 

Bring out the best in everyone

 Managers are at the front line for employee development. Successful managers proactively embrace this part of the role use it to become amazing bosses. Employees always want to work for these managers.  By focusing on development, other signs of a good manager are improved too. These include retention, productivity and motivation. Better managers offer better development opportunities, it’s as simple as that. 

By Karina Brown, co-founder at career support platform GroHappy

Blog postsAlan Wanders