Employees turn to their managers for cues on what strategies and priorities are important within a company. For example, when a call center wants to improve its customer service, managers must work with agents to change the style of conversations with its customers. Likewise, when a company wants to focus on cultivating existing clients versus finding new ones, the sales manager needs to coach the sales team to change approaches.
In the learning and development industry, managers are often ignored and business leaders don’t get the results they seek. They may create a new training course for customer service agents or salespeople, but they do not explicitly address the needs of the managers or support the skills and development they require to make change happen.
Here are some useful strategies:
Start by helping the business articulate a clear and measurable outcome
More than anyone in the organization, managers understand results. They’re held accountable every day. Sales managers focus on increasing revenue, call center managers focus on customer satisfaction, operations managers focus on productivity and so on. As training managers, our job is to align training to the metrics managers care about. If it isn’t successful, the program will more likely be an adversary rather than an ally. In other words, it will be doomed from the start.
Close the circle and track the outcomes
It’s time to put on a sales hat. Simply telling a manager that training will have an impact isn’t enough. It’s also necessary to track the results and continue to share them with the managers. Being transparent about the expected outcome and actual performance – good or bad – will actually help you build credibility. Owning mistakes and making course corrections will help you generate and maintain long-term partnerships in the organization.
There’s nothing a like a good competition to get managers involved. Using leaderboards and dashboards to track assessment scores and completion rates can give your program a boost and additional visibility in the organization. As the old saying goes, “That which is measured, improves!”
Use manager insight to eliminate the most costly mistakes
Clients often say that the most valuable resource being invested in training is the time of the participants, so it’s vital to focus on the solutions. Focus on the performance gaps that have the biggest impact on the business. Conveniently, managers are one of the best sources of information on these gaps. Start by asking managers three simple questions:
- What mistakes have you observed?
- How frequently do those mistakes occur?
- What’s the business impact of those mistakes?
Define what managers do
What is the manager’s role in the program? The specific actions of managers will vary depending on the program and organization; however, for a manager to be seen as an advocate of a training program, the employees need to see action and evidence before they take it to heart. Make the manager’s role clear and specify what actions are expected throughout the process. Be sure to include tangible work products that are able to be tracked and requires an investment of time and emotion.
Include concrete deliverables
Suggesting that a manager provide mentoring and support may not be enough. As you’ve probably noticed, check-ins and informal conversations often get dropped on the priority list. Consider having a manager provide formal feedback (and document it in your LMS), lead skill-based assessments and create work products that are used as part of the training. By requesting and tracking the feedback, you will foster the kind of partnership between managers and employees that will lead to a successful program.
Provide guidance and support
If you ask managers to actively participate in a training program, you can’t assume they are fully competent in the content being trained. Give them a framework that includes guides and rubrics for assessing performance, feedback forms and, of course, training. Managers should go through the training or at least be briefed on the training their employees will go through. Specific training for their role may also be necessary. Their training and support are just as critical as that of the primary audience.
Finally, don’t forget to continuously improve. Circle back to the managers in six months to get their feedback and make the changes accordingly.