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How to get line managers to support your elearning


If there’s one group you need on board before launching a new elearning project, it’s the line managers.

They will have a critical role to play in the success of the project so gaining their support needs to be a priority. We've asked Learning & Development (L&D) teams for some suggestions on how best to get line manager buy-in.

Critical agents

The former boss of the Chrysler and Ford car companies, Lee Iacocca once said:

“Management is nothing more than motivating other people.”

But who motivates the managers?

When it comes to elearning projects, it often falls to the L&D department to secure engagement from line managers and team leaders. Getting the managers on board couldn't be more important, given their role as ‘critical agents’ in training and learning. They are, by far, the single most important group to convince.

The CIPD has produced a useful document on their role of line managers in workplace learning. In terms of formal training, it outlines a number of key ways that line managers can contribute to the process including identifying who needs the training, arranging time to complete the course, helping to evaluate the learning, and sometimes even paying for the cost from their own budget.

Practical tips

Getting the support of line managers for a new elearning project requires time, effort and a range of strategies. With the help of L&D professionals from a variety of different industries and sectors, we've drawn up a list of practical tips to help you win hearts and minds.

  • Communication

So obvious but it is often forgotten. Be very clear about the purpose of the elearning, and make sure you answer all the basic questions. Why has the elearning been developed? What is the learning objective?  How can staff access the training? How long will it take? Most importantly, make communications relevant, so line managers know from the start how it will benefit their team.

  • Be clear about business cases

Share the details of how the elearning fits in with the objectives of the business as a whole, and exactly what it will deliver against these objectives. Explain how it will be evaluated and measured. The more data you can provide, the more convincing your case will be.

  • What’s in it for them?

Help them understand the benefits for them and their team.  How will the elearning help make their job easier, safer or quicker? Ideally, provide a practical example of something that will change for the better as a result of the elearning.

  • Use gamification

The same gamification techniques used to engage learners can help motivate line managers too. A reward badge for every completion could be linked to a real life incentive or prize for managers who encourage their team to do the elearning. Healthy competition between managers can be generated with an interactive leader board so everyone can see which teams are forging ahead.

  • Tap into their experience

Getting line managers involved with the elearning from the start can have numerous benefits. You may find their input invaluable in terms of making the content as relevant as possible; their frontline experience could provide angles that other subject matter experts have missed. Line managers are uniquely placed to advise how best to market the elearning to staff and how it will fit into their working lives. Managers who already have a stake in the elearning are far more likely to be enthusiastic champions of the training.

  • Reduce barriers to learning

Managers are far more likely to support elearning if it is straightforward to access. This really boils down to practical considerations such as a single sign in for learners and good signposting to the correct module. Supporting line managers in scheduling time for training and helping them make sure their team has access to PCs or mobile devices, will all help reduce the barriers that can get in the way

  • Marketing for managers

Devise a marketing plan specifically aimed at line managers. This might include branded emails, posters or even a launch event. Get top level management involved with promoting the elearning, perhaps include a video message from the CEO. The more effort that goes into raising awareness, the better the chance of securing buy in from line managers and team leaders. 

The L&D teams we've spoken to list engaging line managers as one of their top priorities and biggest challenges.

Each organisation will have a slightly different approach, but one thing is clear; even a little time invested in gaining the support of line managers can have a big impact to the overall reach and success of an elearning project.