Why is management training so important?

Emma-Louise Jones /
eLearning, General, LMS

L&D experts share their thoughts on the importance of management training

Research by Digits shows that managers who receive regular training are more likely to enjoy their job and stay with their organisation. But the benefits for employers go far wider than employee engagement and retention.

We asked some leading L&D experts to share their thoughts on the importance of management training:

Bradley Burgoyne, head of learning and development at CIPHR:

Investment in people development is a critical component for any individual, team, or organisation to achieve and maintain high performance. This is as true for managers as it is for anyone else.

The renowned futurist Alvin Toffler once said that “the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.

The events of the past 18 months have demonstrated this quote in action. Managers have needed to quickly adapt in an ever-changing environment. They have been expected to navigate the challenges of a pandemic, and implement change on a scale never seen before, while supporting their direct reports along the way.

Managers who work in a supportive environment, which encourages the practice of learn, unlearn and relearn, will have successfully navigated this period of unprecedented change. And the pace of change shows no sign of slowing post-pandemic. In fact, the pace of technological and societal advancement is speeding up, with big impacts on all our lives.

How does this relate to the importance of management training? As the world continues to change, investment in training and development provides a great mechanism to maximise future opportunities for both individuals and organisations. It ensures managers and their direct reports are equipped with the knowledge, skills and capabilities required by the future world of work. A highly knowledgeable and skilful workforce is a key component of business growth and employee retention.

With demand for talent and pressure to perform at an all-time high, I guess the question is: can organisations afford not to invest in their managers’ development?

Chris Mikkelson, learning and development operations manager at Vaultex UK:

The potential consequences for those who do not invest in management training are far-reaching for any business. If we don’t invest in management training, then how are our managers supposed to know how to manage?

Yes – people will be hired with skills and experience. But, by investing in management we are building on what’s already there to enable the company to be more successful. If we don’t do this, it’s likely managers will feel they aren’t sure what is expected of them and employees may not have confidence in the management team if they don’t have the skills to manage effectively. The result of this could be a negative effect on engagement, which could in turn impact on production. This will ultimately impact customer service, reputation and the potential for the business to grow. 

By investing in management training, we can develop employees’ skills from within to manage employees effectively. If we are investing in our managers then you would expect a very engaged management team, which will filter through to their teams. This approach should reduce turnover and with it the cost of re-hiring, as engaged employees are more likely to want to stay with a company. This will, in turn, have a positive effect on standards within the business, as the longer people are in a job you would expect the better they would be at it. This then links in to delivering service excellence to customers, which of course will allow the company to grow by gaining new customers and retaining existing ones.

Winnie da Silva, leadership strategist and executive coach at winniedasilva.com:

Leadership training absolutely makes a business impact. It has to, otherwise training is an absolute waste of time and money. There are four ways to make sure people and organisations benefit from leadership training.

1. Collect data. Get clarity on what the business needs and expects from its leaders. What strengths can be leveraged? What critical gaps need addressing? What’s working now but will need to be different in the future?

2. Behaviour, behaviour, behaviour. We can talk about skills all day long but unless you see these new skills, new ways of thinking and what you were supposed to learn take place in real time – well then, that training wasn’t worth it.

3. Training usually originates from HR. As it should be. But leadership training that has a real business impact needs to be driven by the business, with support from HR. That’s different. If the business doesn’t have a hand in crafting the training, and communicating to participants why it’s critical – the impact will be significantly less.

4. Culture trumps strategy. If this is true, and you’re looking to change behaviour, many times that involves changing culture. Leadership training can create a common language, and a common culture on what the business expects from its leaders.

Dominique Stillman, leadership and neuroscience coach at DS Consulting:

Management training with the right content provides a vital opportunity to nurture, sustain and develop an organisation’s culture. It matters because leading and managing others can be tough. It requires many challenging conversations and decisions. That means, to handle these well, being able to think clearly, logically, and compassionately when under pressure. After all, who thrives under a stressed manager? No one!

What can management training help with? Communicating your team’s work and direction, ways to enable your team to bond and support each other, how to give each member your individual attention, and feedback. Then there’s the other stuff – reporting, strategising, analysing information, networking and keeping up to date with your industry. Often management training involves processes and policies too. These are all important yet it’s ‘how’ the ideas in training are applied that makes the difference. This requires emotional awareness and intelligence.

In my experience, the ‘how’ sets the tone for an organisation’s culture. A style that triggers fear or overwhelm encourages errors and absence. There is much neuroscience that can be applied to leading. What creates fear or threat? How to create psychological safety and creativity. These, along with skills such as listening to understand and personal awareness with psychometrics, aid the positive impact a leader has on others.

Let’s not forget the phrase ‘behaviour breeds behaviour’! Management development and coaching can create leaders that we’d want others to copy, and healthy and inspiring cultures.

Jennifer Bryan, learning and change consultant at ABChange Consultancy:

As John Denton said in his book, Organisational Learning and Effectiveness: “Organisations must be able to learn.” I would add that learning is essential for organisations to be able to change and hence remain relevant and viable as a business, as we don’t have to look very far to see examples of just how expensive it is to not learn and change.

Management training is critical in the development of people and task skills at a variety of different levels within an organisation. Furthermore, it is not just enough to offer management training, but to actually understand that learning is a journey, not an end stop, and therefore requires more than just a training course. The big question organisations need to ask themselves is: how do they want to travel on this journey? This requires viewing and implementing management training as a long-term engagement and investment into their people managers. This should include a clear development path with coaching and mentoring that enables the people managers to actively, and deliberately, implement the learning into the workplace with clear objectives and expectations set for measuring. 

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