Training is important in organizations. But there is a growing trend that I am noticing as I work with clients. There is an increasing cynicism as to whether training budgets are producing the results they should. There is a realization that there are performance gaps that need to be closed, but the training investment is simply not delivering.
This doesn’t apply to all training. Specific skills training is not being questioned as the results are pretty good. If a new piece of equipment is installed, of course the operators need to be trained. The Health and Safety people need regular training to keep their skills up to date. When a new phone system is installed everyone gets an hour of training to be sure they understand the features. I think of these as pure skills training. The team’s manager understands the skills required to do the work, and if there is a gap in an employee’s skill level, the employee can be provided training so they can develop the skill.
There is another kind of training which still works pretty well, but which can be problematic. For example, implementing a new ERP or new organization-wide process typically get mixed reviews. There is no question that there is a skills gap that needs to be closed. But the application of the training is often met with resistance. The factor at play here is not the skills gap – it is the acceptance of the people receiving the training of their need to change how they do things. The issue then is not with the training, it is with the change management that is required to support the training. Managers need to start where the employees are in terms of their willingness to accept the change. And they need support in doing this. Once this is understood organizations can be successful delivering this kind of training as well.
Leadership Training is the most problematic.
But there is a third kind of training. It is the training offered to executives and managers that general falls into the category of leadership training. In this category there is an increasing menu to choose from: a Google search on Leadership Training Course will deliver 163,000,000 results! But generally this training has to do with what would be considered key competencies: leadership, communications, collaboration, empowerment, and so on.
Executives are generally keen to improve skill sets in these areas, and managers are generally keen to get this kind of training. But when the person who received the training comes back to the job the impact just isn’t there. There may be an up-tick in performance for a short period of time, but it typically doesn’t stick.
Why things are going wrong.
There is a fundamental reason why this is happening. Management training is locked in on symptoms of poor management and not the root causes of poor management. It is the lack of managerial leadership in organizations that results in the symptoms of poor communication, insufficient collaboration and ineffective empowerment, and so on.
There can be four reasons for this:
- Managers are not devoting sufficient time to actually managing their people – they are too caught up in their day-to-day work to manage.
- Managers don’t have the capability to manage at the level to which they have been promoted – they have been over promoted. This is so common that there is even a name for it: the Peter Principle.
- Managers don’t value doing their managerial work – they applied for the job because of the prestige and the compensation, not because they actually want to manage.
- Managers don’t have the managerial leadership skills to manage – they have never learned how to manage, so they manage by example. Unfortunately the experience most managers have of being managed is not a good example to emulate.
Notice that only one of these causes of poor or insufficient management in an organization is caused by a skills gap. It is the only one of the four that can be resolved through skills based training. The other three cause require a fundamentally different way of approaching how we think about managerial leadership in organizations.
The solution for effective managerial leadership training.
So how do we get this right? This is mostly the work of the CEO of the organization with support from the Head of Human Resources, to:
- Have in place an accountability and authority framework which includes specifically the accountability of managers to actually do their managerial leadership work and against which performance is measured.
- Ensure that the problem solving capability required for each managerial role is understood, and that managers who are selected and appointed to that role have the capability to work at that level of complexity.
- Include an assessment of the degree to which management candidates actually value the role of management, and the degree to which they will apply themselves to doing managerial work.
- Assess managerial leadership skills as a fundamental aspect of all managerial roles, and provide skills based training where there are gaps.
Is this a big job? Yes it is! But will it pay dividends? Yes, in a big way. Our client experience in implementing a methodology like the effective Point of Accountability® can start paying dividends in a very short time frame. But only if it is part of an organization-wide approach that becomes part of the fabric of “how we manage here”.
“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” (Henry Mencken, The Divine Afflatus, 1917.)
Yes, it is simpler to send someone off on a communications course than it is to fundamentally rebuild your talent management and talent pool approach. But if you want to build a sustainable, high performing organization, you must get to root cause as to why your managers are not doing their managerial leadership work.
To learn more, watch the Webinar on our YouTube channel
In this Webinar we explore why training may be failing, and what you can do to improve performance. Training is important, but the way we approach management training should be very different from the skills based, repair this engine faster training. We will tell you why, and what you should do differently in your organization to improve your results.