Dear HR, this is why your managers don't enjoy training

June 8, 2023
Dear HR, this is why your managers don't enjoy training

(Note: ‘Workshop’, ‘program’ and ‘intervention’ are used interchangeably in this article)

If you are in-charge of your companies’ management development, you know that pleasing your audience (particularly senior managers) is a tall order. You must have experienced multiple instances where you have sent them to an intervention that checked all the boxes and looked great on paper - only to find they got very little out of it.

During our workshops for middle and senior managers from over 150 companies in 2013, we asked our participants to aid us understand the salient features of our workshops that helped maximizing their learning. We have also requested them to share their experiences from other interventions they attended. We collect some common responses here, to make your selections easier in the future.

I-had-better-things-to-do: Your managers leave behind deadlines and vital tasks when they get drafted (‘dragooned’ was the word one participant used) to attend an intervention. We found that this had more to do with the structuring and pace of the intervention, rather than the content itself. Intense workshops, packed with activity as opposed passive listening sessions, tend to sustain the interest of these accomplished professionals used to being busy.

Learning from experience: These are accomplished, successful professionals who respect experience (their own, and their peers’) as the best teacher. This is why (and research agrees) case discussions work better than lectures; and experiential learning works better than either. Find a program that engages your managers in activity to learn from their experience – and you won’t hear them complain again.

Too far-fetched (or too close to their real job): Even among experiential programs, maintaining the right distance from your managers’ core competence (both industry and function) is often essential for development. If a program shadows their industry too closely, their natural biases and preconceived notions come into full force. You have to take them far enough out of their comfort zone to open up perspectives. Take it too far from reality though, and it becomes difficult to link the insight back to business. Imagine trying to glean procurement lessons from a camping retreat. This is a difficult needle to thread, and if you find a program that succeeds here, hang on to it.

You can, to an extent, use information at hand to check the above – reviews from other HRs, testimonials from participants, peer-group relevance, quality of pre- and post-program support etc. But the best way to make sure (after all, your managers’ time is worth it) is to attend one yourself. Look for open programs (not specific to a company, industry or function) that you can experience and attest.

For more on selecting the right interventions, read our 7-step guide to selecting workshops.

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