Management Training? Really Useful?

Photo by RDECOM

You joined a management training. The trainer was lively. The class was engaging. Everyone was excited. But back in the office, you were still performing as before. The newly learned skills were not put into practice.

What the training left was a think binder of handouts, plus some good memory. (Well, if there were some special activities or events in the class, the training will be more memorable.)

A SME (small and medium size enterprise) owner often said, “management training has no value!”

If this statement is from an ordinary SME owner, it has no weight to me. But this owner was a veteran human resources executive in listed companies and large enterprises, and himself was once a trainer. His statement reflects his years of painful experience.

A couple of days ago I had lunch with the general manager of a well-known company, and we talked about management training.

His company spends a sizable sum on training and development – management training, skills training, and personal development programs. However, his conclusion on the effectiveness of management training was: “I don’t expect any long term impact from these training programs. All I can expect is some short term stimulation to motivate the staff for a while.”

These comments are sad news and serious reminders to us in the training profession. Many management training programs are indeed not very useful.

What they are not satisfied with management training can be summarized as:

  1. The training may have good responses from participants. But when the participants return to their work context, nothing happens, or changes are very short term.
  2. There are behavior changes, but the attitudes are the same. Many training programs are designed to cope with planned changes in systems or policies. People will inevitably adapt their behaviors to the changes. However, if attitudes and beliefs are not aligned with the values of the changes, the changes will not stick and may only be nominal.
  3. Of course, the worst case is that the immediate responses from the participants are poor, and no changes or alignment are observed.

So, does management training really have values to an organization?

I believe yes. Management training has its value. To make it work, in additional to contents, design plays a very important role.

On a macro level, the training designer needs to ensure alignment between the training and the business direction and needs. Can you connect the training with the business needs? Do you need a baseline assessment before the training session so that you can compare the training results? And which assessment approach is the most appropriate?

On the micro level, you have to carefully design how the training should be delivered. Some trainers can deliver a training session in a lively, interesting and charismatic fashion. Some may even be considered “star” trainers. However, in addition to hosting like a stand-up comedian, can he/she engineer the messages to invoke attitude change and belief alignment? Other than logical presentation and analysis, can he/she influence the participants emotionally?

This may be beyond what “normal” trainers do. A lot of trainers maintain logical and systematic presentation, and insert activities to stir up the learning atmosphere. But when we need to change attitudes and beliefs, tricks and skills from some high impact personal development training will be helpful.

Successful management training needs to address both the logical and the emotional minds. It is not just the knowledge transfer of the subject matter from the trainers work to the participants’ memory, but also the adjustment in attitude towards using those concepts and techniques, with the motivation to taking action.

Trainers, let’s make management training highly valuable to our clients!

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