“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” Queen Elizabeth II
There are three key reasons why management training fails:
- It focuses on skill deficits rather than performance,
- It occurs outside of the managers’ organizational context and culture, and
- It does not reinforce application of new knowledge or behavior.
In this Tip, we’ll focus on the first reason. We’ll cover the remaining reasons in subsequent Tips.
Reason #1 for management training failure: it focuses on general skill deficits rather than specific performance.
Unless the training program is exclusively for one organization or an intact team, typical management training is concerned with developing managerial skills rather than tackling performance problems within an organization.
For example: A training needs assessment determines that managers need to learn how to address employee morale, which is low. To fill this need, four managers attend training on how to create a motivational environment. In the class, the managers learn about different motivators and several strategies that can positively affect employee motivation. However, because there are managers from other departments, or possibly from other organizations, in the class, the instructor must use general examples that may or may not be relevant to the individual managers.
As a result, the managers leave the class with general knowledge about employee motivation that then has to be reconfigured to operate within their specific organizations. The managers may have a better idea of different ways to create a motivational environment, but they do not have an opportunity to determine or test what will work best in the organization. Employee morale may continue to decline, which will have an adverse impact on their performance and therefore on the organization.
A better way: An organizational assessment indicates there is an employee performance problem due to low employee morale. The managers who share this challenge attend a class, limited to their organization, in which they can discuss their individual situations and learn new strategies to improve their employees’ morale.
Tips: Managers need to learn in a way that focuses them on the real issues and challenges they face on the job.
- Create an effective connection between working and learning, by giving managers the opportunity to work together, develop and deliver solutions, and learn from the experience.
- In the example given above, focus on both content (motivational strategies) and context (the organizational policies and culture).
- Recognize that learning is a constant process and part of overall performance, rather than a unique event.
- Integrate learning and working.
How does your company ensure that managers learn how to handle real workplace performance issues?
May your learning be sweet.