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Managers: The Forgotten Training Partner
February 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm #122357
The Forgotten Training Partner
By Barbara Carnes
Learning new skills and behaviors takes time, focus, and reinforcement. We know this. We also know that we can’t be in a participant’s work environment to finish the job we have started in training.
As I think back over my more than 30 years in training and development, a lot has changed, and a lot of really positive things remain the same. But one thing hasn’t budged—how the trainee’s manager fits into the picture.
Here’s a typical scenario: A manager approaches the learning and development department or an external consultant with a need, an issue, a problem, or a necessary change.
After the usual discussion about outcomes, the workplace learning professional provides a suggested training plan of classroom or online training.
“Can you do it in less time?” the manager often asks (or whines). “My people are stretched to the hilt with…” as he goes on to list a litany of initiatives. (Or, the manager is ok with the recommended timeframe but trying to schedule it becomes a nightmare of conflicts, and the training is scheduled for sometime in 2012.)
There are several things to note:
- First, it’s can you do it in less time? (Even if the word “we” is used, the meaning is usually the same.) But the trainer is just one player on the team, and, if we are to believe some current research, not the most important one at that.
- Second, doing it means the training session. When people have participated in the training they will be transformed, fixed. They will be able to perform their newly developed skills in a variety of on-the-job conditions, often after considerable lag time and in the face of fast-changing priorities. Not so!
- Third, this question also implies that the less time spent on the training, the better. Of course it is a good idea to do something as efficiently as possible, but isn’t the message here to “get it over with” rather than to “get the results?”
Learning new skills and behaviors takes time, focus, and reinforcement. We know this. We also know that we can’t be in a participant’s work environment to finish the job we have started in training. What if instead, you ask the manager of the trainees:
- When they complete the training, how will you or someone else in your work area help them to practice and use their new skills?
- How will they be held accountable for using the new skills in the face of their other work and changing priorities?
- How will they be rewarded and reinforced for their use of the new skills and behaviors?
- If you won’t be available to encourage and monitor practice, accountability, and reinforcement, is there someone else who can be?
- What is it in your current work environment, including some things that you may be doing, that might keep them doing what they have been doing?
I know that some of us ask these questions, and some managers are good talent development partners, but I also know that many more of us could and should help managers be better training partners. If we don’t help them learn and understand what their role is in the training process, they’ll never know.
Barbara Carnes is a nationally recognized consultant, trainer, speaker, instructional designer, and writer. Her book, Making Learning Stick, can be purchased at the ASTD Store; [email protected].
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