Investment in Learning Vital to Worker Engagement


A lack of investment in learning and development is just one of the causes of the widening gulf between managers and workers in New Zealand, according to one workplace development expert.

Commenting on a recent Engagement Management Survey, director of The Learning Wave, Martyn McKessar says any increasing gap between workers and managers and the levels at which they engage in their work is at least partly caused by a failure to keep staff learning and developing their skills.

“We know organisations that invest in learning send a message that they care about their people,” says McKessar.

The survey by Right Management, found the engagement of middle management and workers with their work is dropping sharply while that of their employers is rapidly increasing. Experts have predicted the resulting disconnection between employers and employers could mean disaster for profits, productivity and growth.

The survey indicated that 57 per cent of managers were engaged at work while just 32 percent of non-managers were engaged.

McKessar says: “Good learning that is relevant and targeted motivates people to do their job better. Where learning is meaningful we see people become more motivated, and they develop the momentum to engage more fully in their job.  For example, leaders who have experienced good leadership development will have the tools to engage and motivate their staff that is one of the fundamental parts of leadership learning.

He suggests senior managers who want to engage their teams should plan one day a week to get amongst their people and work beside them.

“You’ll be amazed how much you learn about your own business, you’ll be amazed how many ideas you generate to improve quality, and you’ll be amazed at the lift in engagement and productivity.

“I don’t understand how a manager can claim to be a good leader if their own people are not engaged, or are not passionate, about their work and what their company does.  One of the key capabilities needed for today’s manager is the ability to engage their team.”

Leadership skills are a key focus of The Learning Wave approach. The company helps managers to empower their staff and get away from the micro-management culture, says McKessar.

“Micro-management is counter-productive, because it doesn’t allow individuals to realise their potential, and therefore the potential of the organisation. It’s also crippling for the micro-manager who is overburdened and unable to delegate effectively.

“Many organisations don’t think twice about investing in plant, equipment, IT systems and technical training as enablers of workplace productivity.  Those who also invest in leadership development are adding a vital piece in the jigsaw that ensures they get the highest levels of workplace productivity and individual performance.”

"For example, many people move into management roles without actually knowing how to manage – they get promoted because they have demonstrated excellence in their field, but this does not mean they possess the skills needed to manage a team and bring out the best in their staff,” he says.

“Managing a team of middle managers is like having teenagers – at some point you have to trust them – and if you have a good relationship with them you’ll be surprised how good they turn out to be.  But if you don’t let them go you’ll never know how good they are!”


Martyn McKessar

The Learning Wave is a learning and development company with experience in delivering performance improvements to organisations. Their focus is on delivering measurable shifts in performance that produce effective organisational improvements and increase productivity.

The learning and development programmes are bespoke for each client and are linked to the organisation’s strategic outcomes. The Learning Wave work in partnership with clients to embed learning into organisational change and help develop their people.


Martyn McKessar is a member of The Learning Wave - a learning and development company with experience in delivering organisation performance improvements. Their focus is on delivering measurable shifts in performance that produce effective organisational improvements and increase productivity.

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