Line managers play a crucial role in coaching, developing, retaining, and supporting talented employees.
This forms a large part of their HR-related activities. For more details, see – The Role Of Line Management In HR.
Coronavirus and the move to home-working have only made the role of line managers in coaching and development more important.
This article examines:
A line manager is someone with direct day-to-day responsibility for a small number of employees.
They provide a vital part of the chain of command. Relaying information up and down the organisation is a key part of their role.
Their responsibilities typically include:
For full details see our article: What Is A Line Manager?
Coaching and development describes the work organisations do to help employees improve their personal and technical skills.
In many cases, the terms “coaching” and “development” are used interchangeably, or as a single term, “Coaching and development”.
Technically they refer to different practices, and both are part of the broader category of “Learning and development”.
Let’s quickly look at each term a bit more closely.
Coaching is the process of instructing and training an employee to achieve a particular goal.
Many organisations offer coaching to employees they have identified as having the potential to achieve a senior leadership position.
As these individuals progress through their careers, the specific focus of the coaching will change depending on what their biggest challenge is.
Coaching is usually a one-to-one activity and explicitly targeted to the individual involved and their goals.
This one-to-one interaction allows the managers carrying out the coaching to build much deeper relationships with their team members, in addition to:
If you’d like to see coaching in action, this video has some great examples of coaching conversations.
Development is short for employee development.
It is the process by which employees in an organisation benefit from professional training to boost their skills and improve their knowledge.
Development does not just refer to optimising an employee’s skill set for one particular role. It is a broader term and refers to an ongoing programme of learning that employees will undertake as they move through their careers.
A well-designed employee development programme will:
A huge number of studies have been carried out on the impact that line managers have on corporate performance.
Almost universally these studies have concluded that the line manager/employee relationship is vital.
Both of these studies established the fact that team members with effective line managers value their managers greatly.
In many cases, a substantial part of the value of the relationship is generated by the line manager’s focus on employee development.
This YouTube video explains Google’s findings on the impact that managers can have.
There are 5 different areas that line managers get involved with staff coaching and development:
Line managers are usually responsible for the induction of new staff members.
They will show new staff members how corporate systems and processes work and ensure that they are appropriately set up (for example, with computer logins and the like) when they join the business.
Line managers will also often organise for new staff members to initially work alongside experienced staff members for a period of time. This ensures that the new staff member learns the correct way to carry out the task before working independently.
Broadening team members’ skillsets develops the individuals involved and improves team communication and resilience.
Line managers are often responsible for facilitating team members rotating through other roles and sometimes other departments.
The team member involved will get practical experience of roles and build their broader understanding of how the team and business works.
This can be done through formal job rotation or a job-sharing scheme that buddies up employees to learn from each other.
Similarly, as a team member becomes increasingly familiar with their role their line manager will be responsible for allocating them more challenging work to keep them engaged.
Line managers often provide informal coaching and mentoring for their team members, in addition to any formal schemes that they are involved with.
For example, a line manager might call a meeting during a lunch break. During the meeting, the team would discuss recent issues and look at ways to resolve them.
Alternatively, a regular conversation with a team member focused on an area for development can offer a very effective way to mentor a team member and develop their skills.
In many organisations, line managers have active roles in recommending team members for promotion and designing appropriate development programmes for them.
Line managers have the most detailed experience of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. They are the best person to build a development plan for that individual as they can compare the individual against the key qualities that they need in their team members
Depending on the organisation this development plan could include external training and courses, certifications and exams or attending conferences and seminars.
In the modern workplace, experienced line managers now take the lead in organising formal training courses. This can range from structured day run by internal experts to external courses run by professional accreditation bodies.
Line managers will work with their company’s HR department to deliver coaching and development to their team.
If you are a new line manager you should make developing a good relationship with your HR department a priority.
It will allow you to be far more effective.
The HR department is staffed by HR specialists and has overall responsibility for all aspects of HR within your organisation.
The other side of coaching and development is working with difficult or under-performing team members. This will involve some problem-solving and planning from HR and the individual’s line manager in order to build a plan appropriate to the situation.
This could be a simple as having a simple, direct conversation about the issue and opportunities for the individual concerned to change.
At the more serious end of the scale, this would involve formal, documented conversations with the individual and detailed plans being agreed by both parties to solve the problem.
To succeed in a line management role, you should put team coaching and development high on your to-do list.
Research has shown how highly team members value this.
Make a start today, and your employees will thank you with better retention and higher performance.