“We’ve got to put a lot of money into changing behavior.” Bill Gates
In the two previous Tips, we addressed the first two reasons why management training fails: it focuses on skill deficits instead of performance, and it occurs outside the manager’s organizational context and culture. In this Tip, we focus on the third and final reason for the failure of management training.
The third reason why management training fails is because it does not reinforce application of new knowledge or a change in behavior.
Once managers leave a training class, they are highly unlikely to apply what they have learned because they do not feel confident enough in their new skill. There is also nothing to ensure that the managers change their behavior based on what they’ve learned.
For example: The managers attend a training program on delegation. They learn the steps involved in making delegation decisions, but they aren’t given an opportunity to plan how to apply the steps to delegate a specific task. As a result, they leave without a plan of action.
My years of training have proven that, if the participants in a training program don’t have an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned while still in the classroom, they are highly unlikely to apply it when they are back on the job. Without the dedicated time and nonjudgmental coaching support they could have received in the classroom, they lack confidence, are afraid to try something new and fail, and don’t have the time to practice.
Let’s say that the training program does provide time for the managers to create and discuss delegation plans that they will implement with their staff. There are still limitations on a trainer’s ability to monitor, assist and reinforce new behavior.
As a result, once again, the managers have wasted their time, energy and money. They leave the training without any confidence in their ability to delegate. Consequently, they avoid using delegation to lighten their workload or provide growth opportunities to their employees. This decision not to delegate will, either immediately or ultimately, adversely affect the quality and timeliness of their performance, as well as the development and morale of their employees.
A better way: A class on delegation should allocate sufficient time for the managers to identify what they need to delegate, decide the level of decision making authority they will provide, select the appropriate employee, and resolve the most practical way to monitor the employee’s performance, etc. The managers should pair up to discuss their respective delegation plans and make any necessary refinements based on the feedback they receive. This way, the managers leave the class with a concrete plan of action and confidence in their ability to implement it. There should be a formal expectation that the managers will share their plans and their progress in implementing them with their supervising managers.
Tips: Make sure that all management (and employee) development training programs are highly participatory. This means that the training participants are enabled and expected to apply what they are learning throughout the program.
- Ensure that there are learning activities that check for retention, so that both the instructor and the participants can see and assess their progress.
- Sufficient time to practice what they’ve learned and an action plan to apply what they’ve learned are both critical.
- It also helps to establish the expectation that, after the class, they will share their plans with upper management.
- The managers’ new-found confidence will ensure that they will try to implement their plan- and upper management’s involvement will reinforce the managers’ actual implementation.
How does your company follow up to reinforce what managers and employees learn in training programs?
May your learning be sweet.