By Dean Hawkinson
I recently read a commentary in Training magazine by Tim Hagen called Old Habits Die Hard. In the article, Tim references the importance of training reinforcement being an ongoing process beyond the training event itself, and even goes so far as to say that training reinforcement should be a long-term commitment, not just a once-and-done deal.
This article, which talks about management support and reinforcement of training, made me realize that in design of instruction, we often forget about these critical resources that can either be our harshest critics or our greatest partners – managers.
Motivating Management Support
So how do we go about ensuring that managers reinforce and support their direct reports in what they learned through the training event, whether it be eLearning or classroom? We want them to be coaching their direct reports on how they can implement the new skills that they learned in our programs. After all, it is all about applying and implementing these skills on the job. Without application, the time away from the job is wasted time.
Here are a few suggestions to ensure managers reinforce and support training:
Align your training programs across all levels of the organization – it is critical that all levels of your organization are speaking the same language when it comes to learning. Aligning all of your training programs for all levels is important. I was recently involved in designing a training program for Director-level managers. We actually started with the training that we provide to their direct reports, second level managers, and built the Director curriculum from that training. The idea was not so much to teach them new skills or concepts at that level, but it was all about gaining a strong understanding of what we were teaching their direct reports, and to have valuable dialog on best practices to support their learning and performance on the job. In the process, though, they learned new things from each other, which was the point of the course – interaction and collaboration. Without ensuring that it aligned with what their direct reports were learning, however, it would fail.
Create post-training activities that have participants create learning plans and involve their managers – I have also been involved in a new hire training program for new 1st level managers in a sales organization. The training consisted of four one-week courses, with several weeks on the sales floor between each one to implement learnings. At the end of each course, the new manager was required to send an e-mail to their manager with an action plan, stating what they will implement and, most importantly, how their manager could support them in implementation. The participants were held accountable by knowing when they returned to the next class in the series, they were expected to give a report on what they implemented and how their manager supported it. When this activity was implemented, we informed the 2nd level managers of this activity, and of the importance of their support, so that they were on board with this process.
For eLearning courses, require the manager to complete the course along with their direct reports – eLearning courses don’t have the benefit of an instructor to hold participants accountable, so what about holding the manager accountable to go through the same course(s) as their direct reports? In addition, it would be a good idea to implement post-course interaction such as discussion of the new skills/concepts in a team meeting or creating action plans for implementation. The manager would then meet one-on-one with the participant to ensure these skills are being applied. Manager s taking the same course ensures that they are on the same playing field as their team members, no matter how far removed from the actual work they might be.
These are just a few suggestions. Have you had any other successful ideas for getting managers to reinforce and support the training for their teams? Feel free to share your experiences.