Conventional workplace wisdom says that a ‘good’ boss manages people effectively. This is vital if people are to achieve optimum productivity levels each day - and happy staff members tend to be more hard working and loyal to their organisation.
This has implications for the L&D professional – who not only has to help to develop bosses’ leadership/management skills but must also help the workers achieve these optimum productivity levels (and stay as happy as possible in the process).
In her book, Learning for Organizational Development: How to design, deliver and evaluate effective L&D, Eileen Arney says, “Much research has been devoted to explaining whether there is a positive relationship between particular people management practices and improved performance, and a number of studies have found that there is… Further research into the people management practices associated with improved performance practices associated with improved performance has identified the importance of line managers’ leadership and management skills…”
She goes on to identify some of these, including highlighting having a boss who shows respect, and workers being able to raise matters of concern.
However, while not all organisations are receptive to the ‘softer’ side of people management practices, every organisation needs to focus on productivity, profitability and the bottom line.
Numerous reports demonstrate that, alongside the high cost involved in replacing staff members who leave because they’re unhappy for whatever reason, appreciating and valuing employees both saves and makes money.
Basically, it’s the soft skills that generate the hard cash. So, demonstrating effective people management practices are among the key skills for would-be successful bosses because, when the right people do the right things, they sustain the organisation’s bottom line.
These days, business success isn’t about who owns the biggest machines but, rather, about who has the best people. We’ve moved from the ‘industrial worker’ to the ‘knowledge worker’ stage in our economic development. So, if you want to grow a modern business, you’re dependent on people.
Moreover, if you develop people’s soft skills, your business success won’t just depend on you. Rather, it’ll rest with all the workers in your organisation.
Leading adults to learn
This raises the issue of how you lead adults to learn.
The theory and practice of getting people to learn is usually called pedagogy – yet pedagogy is ‘the art and science of educating children’. Andragogy defines ‘the art and science of helping adults learn’.
Pedagogy tends to take place via teacher-led instruction to meet a defined curriculum often dictated to the learner. Andragogy is more learner-focused. It’s an approach for which Plato, Socrates, and Confucius, among others, were advocates.
The most well-known research into andragogy was conducted by Malcolm S. Knowles. He believed that adult learners:
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