Recently one of our clients asked me to co-facilitate a workshop at an annual global event. The client is one of the largest building materials companies in the world, and their annual event is attended by plant managers, country directors and executives. Amongst the presentations and plenary sessions they wanted to run 2 challenging workshops which would then lead to concrete action plans. One of these workshops focused on the ambitious goal of quickly becoming carbon free, and the other on training.
Our client wanted to further strengthen their learning culture and ensure top-level management were playing an active part in this journey. Rather than asking the senior leaders “What do you need?” the question they wanted to ask was “So. what can you do?” – and the participants loved it. They were more than happy to share their experiences and opinions, and all were quite vocal when expressing that learning and development was their responsibility. As one Indonesian plant manager said “You at headquarters support us and help us, we like the e-learning and the virtual delivery offers … but we are the important ones because we need to make it happen”.
Based upon their input, and expanded through interviews with other clients, here are 17 ways that senior managers and executives can actively support training and development within their organizations.
- Ensure that the message of how training connects into your long-term health and strategy is lived by all levels. This means looking for opportunities to repeat this message and using concrete and relatable stories.
- Be clear to your L&D teams about where you see your future challenges. What will the critical skills be in 5 years time? What trends do you see in your market? Where do you see the skills gap? What are the core behaviours you want to see in your staff’s DNA? If you show them where you want to go they will help you get there.
- Support the building of a skills matrix for roles , then with a rolling 36-month focus, ensure training is connected directly to this skills matrix. This is an upfront investment that then provides a clear framework for deciding where training budgets go.
- Tap into “management by objectives“ behaviours and make learning a target for your management team.
- Encourage awareness that people learn through experience and exposure. Be an example and look into include and involve upcoming talents and high-performers.
- Expect your management teams to lead by example and actively join training sessions. This helps ensure that training is seen as strengthening for the future and not a sign of weakness or gaps.
- Be seen to be looking for training and development for yourself. This sends a clear message that training is about becoming stronger and not a sign of weakness.
- Insist that managers actively feed back to the central L&D team regarding their current and future needs, satisfaction levels, and ideas for the medium and long-term. Strive to make the internal customer surveys a formality. Your L&D teams should know in advance what is working and what is not if they are benefiting from direct conversations with the regions.
- Ask to see that all training has a clear objective and that this is reinforced before, during, and after the training by line managers in person. This isn’t about checking quality, but rather showing the people involved in the before and after that you care, and these steps aren’t nice-to-have add-ons!
- Connected to above, insist that all training programs lead to follow up actions by team leaders and line managers. See #4.
- Ensue that clear and tangible training objectives are communicated at multiple touch points. Find stories and examples which connect the importance of learning and development to medium- and long-term goals. Yes, this similar to points 1 & 2 but we can’t emphasize it enough. If people understand the “why” then things happen.
- Whenever you visit a plant or site, take the time to meet the local training dept and ask what else you can do to support them. They’ll really appreciate this … and you are again sending a clear signal that training and development is strategically important to you.
- Get involved with your emerging talents programs. These people are your future. They’ll be energized by your involvement and they’ll energize you too!
- Commit to actively supporting a training session once a month by joining the first 15 minutes, explaining why this training is relevant, showing interest in the people in the room and being clear about what we want to see afterwards
- Show little tolerance for regions reinventing the wheel. Identify the core strategic programs needed by all regions– get these programs right through piloting them – and then make sure there is budget to adapt them to the local skill levels and languages.
- Get involved when budget ownership questions threaten the actual delivery of training. Help cut through the complexity of cost centers and encourage the company to work as one organization.
- When costs need cutting, defend training budgets and training availability. It’s too easy to cut it and the savings are often small compared to more painful options but the message is clear. Do you want your employees to see training and development opportunities as a bonus or as an expectation?
For more information
If you’d like to know more about how you can actively make the most from your training investment then download this simple and practical guide.