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Training Officer Tip Archive

February 28, 2006 - How to Carve Out Training Time for Busy Managers

A huge challenge for training officers is getting managers to make time for training. When employees join the ranks of management, they do not become automatically exempt from learning and improving. On the contrary, their new responsibilities require new skill sets. Their need for good training actually increases.

However, demands upon a manager's time can force training to take a backseat to other things. This is understandable, but it doesn't mean managers should be able to get out of training. What are some tactics for making sure your managers are sufficiently trained?

Tactics for Getting Your Managers Trained

1) Gain a commitment from top management (go as high as possible up the food chain) to require a set number of hours of manager training each year. We work with some clients whose managers must take 40 hours of training each year, regardless of each manager's experience level. Few people like "mandatory" training, but if you have the blessing of the managers' bosses, you'll be more likely to succeed.

2) Offer as much variety as possible. Even though managers need training on skills unique to managers, you must be mindful that before they became managers, they probably experienced many hours of training. So, lots of managers think they've "been there and done that". Give them more than standard fare. Try some new topics, new training methods, and new trainers. Keeping them on their toes will have them thinking more creatively.

3) Integrate training with already-planned, offsite meetings. Busy managers will rarely commit to more than a half day of training at one time. But, they never seem to have an excuse for missing offsite meetings, regardless of the meeting length. So, you must take advantage of this captive audience and slip training into the agenda of the offsite. The managers won't feel intruded upon, they'll be more relaxed in the neutral environment, and you'll be able to bring them training on topics targeted specifically for their needs.

4) Spread the training out over time. If you want managers to experience a two day training, don't ask your vendor to compress it into a half day to accommodate your managers' schedules. It won't be nearly as effective as giving them the full two days to workshop the skills and ideas. Instead, spread the training out over four half days or two full days. Sometimes putting a week or two between sessions is actually helpful because you will have given the managers time to practice their new skills in the workplace before sharing their successes and failures with the group at the next training. This method can often be slightly more expensive than doing all the training at once, but aren't your top people worth it?

5) Make them feel good. It pays off to recognize that managers' egos appreciate frequent stroking. So, when you are selling them on training, say things that make them feel good. Tell them how only the best of the best are being asked to take part in the training. Explain to them how it's for "managers only" and intended for "advanced" audiences. If available, show them testimonials from people they respect. Don't make anything up; just be sure to work their egos, because if you make them feel good, they'll be more open to your requests for their time.

The bottom line is that managers are busy, yet they need training to improve themselves and improve the organization. Managers will not magically become less busy, nor will they suddenly stop complaining about how they aren't available for training. So you know what you're up against. If you think creatively and consider employing the above tactics, you'll see a change in the way your managers respond to you.

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