Training program for the management focuses on all the skills and competencies required to be a leader. These training programs can have two parts two it: one, focus on filling the gaps of basic leadership skills and two, upskill or reskill the management with the competencies that will prepare them to be future ready.
Why are Long-term Training Programs for Management Unsuccessful?
A 2016 HBR article by Michael Beer and team listed some reasons by Leadership Training Fails. One of the primary reasons stated by them based on a survey is that training programs do not drive or facilitate organizational change. This is due to lack of transfer of learning. The employees don’t get enough scope to apply their learning once they got back to work and therefore, no change.
Another reason was trying to expect employees to change in the same system. Multiple initiative to change the employees with training failed because the overall organization’s system remained intact. As Geary Rummler once said, “People are only as good as the systems they are in” and therefore, trying to change just one wouldn’t serve the purpose. The survey revealed that very few employees could succeed with the learning that was provided to them because they changed their organization and with that the system too changed.
To sum, leadership training fails because leaders do not acknowledge that an organization is a system of interacting elements and the HR teams find it difficult to convey this harsh truth of failing to execute strategy and drive organizational change.
Common Challenges Faced
With that context, planning these long-term training programs for the management can be quite a task. Let us now list down some common challenges faced by the HR and L&D teams in organizing these trainings and few possible solutions for it.
Getting a buy-in from the management to attend learning programs is the biggest challenge. If that is done, 50% of the work is completed. The effectiveness of the training programs will be naturally higher due to increased engagement of the learners. This can be achieved by setting the context and relevance of the training program – why is it needed, what is the rationale behind it, what can they do with it, how will it help them to achieve success in their role, what happens if they don’t develop those competencies. Aligning the learning program strategically is very important to get a buy-in. Answering these questions can help a great deal to get a buy-in.
The second challenge is sustained engagement. Time is a constraint for the management and long-term training programs can be quite a failure. Shorter, specific, focused sessions is recommended. However, one can create a plan of multiple micro-learning sessions spread across a time. Leveraging technology then can be a boon since it caters to the problem of time and travel. Additionally, it is cost effective too. When choosing the technology for the learning sessions, ask if it will have a measurable impact. If yes, then it is valuable to include technology in the plan.
Dearth of insightful customized content is the third challenge. A training for management cannot be with off-the-shelf content only. It needs to be customized to make conversations more personalized, activities more impactful, and insights that can give an A-ha factor. Often members of the management will come into the training program with a pre-conceived notion of “I know it all” or “It is going to be the same redundant stuff”. Breaking that assumption with customized content is important. It is imperative to make the learning program as their program to ensure engagement is sustained.
A final challenge is of measuring the training effectiveness. At the management level, it needs to be more objective. Therefore, it is a good practice to first understand the organizations immediate and long – term goals, then map the competencies needed by the management to drive that and then create a pre- and post-objective plan to assess training effectiveness. Include attributes like employee satisfaction, turnover, customer satisfaction scores etc. and plan based on what impact leadership qualities will have on these attributes.
Some Key Tips
Here are some tips to action for an effective long-term training program for management:
- Start and End with Strategy: The first point to start with is the strategy of the organization that defines the direction in which the organization is heading. If this direction is unclear for the leaders and the training team, it will be difficult to get a buy-in. The training team must start with aligning all leaders to the strategy of the organization and bring everyone on the same page.
- Focus on the Future: Plan for future competencies such as Growth Mindset, Psychological Safety, Culture, Strategic thinking, Women in Leadership, etc. This instills curiosity in the leader’s mind to develop something that they do not know much about and assures them of future success in the role.
- Use Similar Lens for Systems: As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons for leadership training to fail is that we focus the change on people and not systems. Ensure that the systems and processes do not have any loophole or drawback due to which individuals are unable to perform. Have conversations with the management on what needs to change and give them control of their learning.
- Keep it Micro: Time is a major constraint for the management and training teams need to cater to that. Keep the content short, crisp and easy to digest. Instead of books, provide book summaries highlighting the major takeaways. Instead of longer sessions, focus on 30 – 40 minutes quick catch-ups over coffee. Remember, in this case, the trainee will not adjust oneself to the plan and schedule of the training rather the trainer and designer has to adjust to the time of the trainee. Therefore, list what and how can it fit into their time.
- Personalize the Journey: Executive coaching and one-to-one session work best with the management. The learning is focused, personalized, encourages open dialogue and feedback. So, plan for more one-to-one rather than group sessions. Include regular reviews and follow-ups with the coach to assess progress and effectiveness.
Organizing effective long-term training programs is a challenge but not impossible. When planning ensure that the various challenges and barriers are overcome and then apply the tips above for greater effectiveness.