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  • Bryan Smith

Why Libraries of Content Fail to Work for New Managers

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Let’s talk about manager learning and development as it relates to the people / soft / power skills that are critical to success as a people leader. Particularly new managers.

Learning to lead people is not simple or easy. Humans are not simple or easy. Relationships are not simple or easy. Leading people involves both of those dynamics: humans and relationships.

We know a lot of facts that tell us that this relationship between team member and their supervisor is vital for employee engagement & retention:

· 75% of the reasons people quit comes down to their manager. (Inc. & Gallup)

· The primary driver to employee engagement is the relationship with their direct supervisor (Association for Talent Development)

· 70% of the variance in engagement between two teams within the same company is explained and attributed to the manager. (Gallup)

· SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) did a study in 2020 that found that 84% of workers feel their managers need more training. 6 in 10 workers specifically called out the need for people leadership skill development!

· It takes a 20% pay increase to lure an employee away from a manager who engages them, versus no pay increase to lure an employee away from a dis-engaging manager. (Gallup)

Given we are talking about humans and relationship, why do we think we can dump new managers into a vast collection of online knowledge, with no guidance or direction, and expect they will magically become better at managing these relationships? Or put them in a one-day class where they get a firehose of information that they can’t possibly retain?

I’m serious.

We have so much research that tells us how people learn. How humans learn. For example, we can’t absorb more than 20 minutes of information. We need to apply the information to start mapping it into our brains. We need to practice deepening the neural pathways that are being formed as we learn.

Instead, there is a fascination across HR to buy very expensive and vast libraries of content about these people/soft/power skills and call it a day. Even as we have so much data that tells us that no one uses these libraries. Yet, they continue to sell, and HR continues to buy them. The libraries of content are really good content, no one is arguing quality. I am arguing usability, effectiveness, and impact.

If you are a new manager, you don’t even know what you don’t know. A library of content makes no sense to give to someone if they don’t even know what to look up.

While these libraries are known entities to HR, they are not known to the typical business or functional employee. They don’t even think to go to those libraries, no matter how often you may try to tell them. They are more likely to Google or YouTube. I’m not kidding.

Many of these expensive libraries are generally comprised of 30-60+ minutes of content. Not only does that not work for our human brains, but it also doesn’t work for the realities of most workplaces.

Libraries of content are primarily designed to be used on a desktop. Some aren’t even available on a mobile app! Not a reality for many workplaces and, again, not a reality for how and when people may have time to consume content.

Let’s also talk about the theory versus practical application! Many business and functional leaders find the library content great at theory and best practices, with little acknowledge, understanding, or practical application to the real business world they work within.

Speaking of practical application, that is how learning happens. Learning happens in the application. A quiz might help with recall, but it is in the application…in the struggle and practice…where real learning and growth happens. Learning also happens in the inquiry, reflection, and sharing. Libraries are not set up to support on the court, in the moment, where learning happens. They don’t have communities for inquiry and sharing.

Last, but not least, new managers have questions. They want to know if their struggles are the norm. They want to know if they are “doing it right”. They want to succeed. They are hungry to succeed. No one ever started leading people with the intention of being the “nightmare boss” story at their employee’s next family gathering. At the same time, new managers don’t want to look stupid to their boss. Sometimes, they don’t even think their boss is a great resource for these questions because their boss was never trained! New managers need a resource and safe space to go to with their questions. A human. In real-time. Someone they trust. Someone who can guide them and understand the realities of what they are dealing with.

How managers show up in their relationships with employees is critical to the satisfaction and well-being of our employees. It is business critical.

How we show up in our relationships with our loved ones is critical to our personal satisfaction and well-being.

We would never give someone an online library, no matter how good the content was, to help them build the skills and do the work in their personal relationships.

So why does nothing more than an online library become the solution in our workplaces with the people who impact our employees the most?

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