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Five Common Reasons Why Management Training Doesn't Work

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Talent development leaders tend to encounter the same common issues with management training. Here's how to avoid them.

As essential as management training is to organizational success, it can be difficult to do well. So many factors play into the development of a management training initiative that it’s easy for things to go wrong. For example, it may not be targeted to the right skills, learners may not be engaged, maybe there's no sustainment built in, or perhaps senior leaders have not been asked to actively support the program.


Luckily, the most common obstacles to successful management training can be avoided through careful program design and implementation. Here are the problems you’re most likely to encounter in management training – and how to fix them.


1. You can’t measure it.


You can’t rely on a Level 1 training evaluation to determine whether your program is working. While the impact and return on investment for a management development program may be more difficult to determine when compared to, say, a sales training program, it’s still critical that you measure results. Unfortunately, many management training initiatives start without planning for proper data collection – which makes it all the more difficult to measure success and justify investing in the program.


Solution

Initiating training programs properly helps ensure you get the data you need to determine if you’re getting the ROI you want. Make sure your plan includes using the following data collection methods:

  • Surveys

  • Questionnaires

  • Observation

  • Interviews

  • Focus groups

  • Tests

  • Action plans

Advanced planning to account for thorough data collection in your development program will make it easier to determine the success of your initiative.


2. It’s not tailored for your business.


A mismatch between training content and your company’s business needs can arise for a variety of reasons. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • No gap analysis was conducted so resources aren’t flowing to the things you need most.

  • A “one size fits all” approach to training is the predominant method for building training in your organization.

  • The current programs have not been adjusted to account for changes in business dynamics and the broader economy.

Solution


Tailoring management training starts with determining what areas of your business need the most improvement. Conduct a gap analysis to pinpoint where you should focus your efforts. For example, a gap analysis may reveal that your company’s employee engagement scores are below your stated goal, so you want your manager development program to include the skills that managers need to engage and inspire employees. Or maybe you've recently implemented a new software platform and adoption is low. You need your managers to understand how to help employees navigate the change-related issues that come with new tools and processes.


Once you know exactly what you need, you can narrow your search for training content. If you can’t find an off-the-shelf program that addresses your managers’ biggest performance issues and speaks to their real-life experiences, go custom! A custom-designed program gives you more control over your company’s training and is easier to update as the business changes.


Tailoring management training starts with determining what areas of your business need the most improvement.

3. The managers of participants aren’t engaged.


This is a common problem – without manager engagement before, during, and after programs, the likelihood of training transfer goes down.


Solution


The first step is to start at the top: get buy-in from senior executives on management training initiatives, share with all senior leaders how managers are being trained, and hold them accountable for participating.


You should also incorporate manager enablement plans into your training programs so learners’ managers know exactly how to support them. For example, at Vital Talent we create training enablement guides that instruct managers on what to do before, during, and after the training to support their employees’ development. This includes setting expectations, reducing learners’ workload so they can focus on the training, holding weekly check-ins, and providing learners the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned.


4. The program is not challenging enough.


This has to do with learning design. Adult learners like to solve problems and take on challenges. If the training doesn’t stretch them and give them enough hands-on practice, they’ll be less engaged and will not retain as much from the learning experience.


Solution


First, begin by setting up scenario-based, intellectually and psychologically engaging problems. Management training should require learners to respond to realistic scenarios that mirror what they will encounter day to day. Immersive activities like role plays, case studies, and simulations are ideal because they give learners an opportunity to make choices and see the consequences of their decisions. They get to demonstrate their management skills in a safe environment, and they get real-time feedback.


Additionally, training programs need to give learners the opportunity to reflect. This can be hard, but the learning experience should be an opportunity to think deeply about the choices managers make and reflect on their own behaviors. For this reason, debriefs and group discussions are essential to management training.


5. There is no sustainment built into the program.


Many people expect training initiatives to be fast-acting and self-contained. Whether managers complete a four-month curriculum or a two-hour workshop, the unspoken expectation is that they’ll walk out of the training having mastered all the necessary skills to succeed and will make an immediate impact. But managers can only develop their skills so much within a single training session.


Solution


Becoming a great manager is about just that, “becoming.” We should always be learning. Every management program should account for continuous learning opportunities. This can take many forms.


First, clear application opportunities need to be made available close to the training. For example, following a workshop on coaching skills, managers should be encouraged to schedule coaching conversations with their direct reports so they can help them set development goals and establish a practice of regular check-ins.


Learners should also be given performance support. Where will they go to access quick help? Are there any supplementary resources (such as videos, eLearning modules, and job aids) available for them to refer to when refreshing their management skills? Do they have a designated performance coach (manager, HR representative, etc.) who can offer them guidance when needed?


Training represents just a fraction of how we learn. Successful manager development programs include exposure and experience.


Management training is about preparation.


Developing a successful management training initiative is as much about the upfront work and follow-up as it is about the training itself. If you know what your organization needs from the program, you can plan the content and measure its success much more easily. If you incorporate sustainability measures to ensure both the managers and the company leadership as a whole remain bought in to the program, you will ensure that learners will remember the training and find meaningful ways to apply it to their work. With that in mind, ask yourself: what can you do to make your management training program work?


If you’re looking for a partner to help you create the management training your organization needs, reach out to us here.

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