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If You Want Business Results from Learning, Get Managers Involved

(September 8, 2009)

This past June we surveyed professionals attending the ASTD International Conference about what they are doing to make sure learning transfers to the job. As people began to fill out the survey, we kept hearing a common question: “Should we fill this out based on what we know we should be doing or based on what we are doing now?”

As it turns out, most of them are not currently doing certain things they know are important—especially when it comes to getting managers to follow up and reinforce learning on the job. Despite research that shows manager involvement is critical, only 29% of our respondents said their managers were “well prepared to coach and support new skills.”

Why not?? Most managers will tell you they want to develop their people and they want better results from investments in learning. But when you think about it, with all the demands on today’s managers, it’s not surprising that they are reluctant to participate in time-consuming activities for which they feel unprepared and which seem disconnected from their most urgent priorities. When that’s the case, you are just not going to get their mind-share and commitment.

If you want managers to coach, support and reinforce learning on the job, here are a couple of simple guidelines:

  • Make sure managers are informed and clear about the content and business impact of the learning. How will it help them achieve their business goals?
  • Provide them with tips and tools that make coaching and support easy. (A customised coaching checklist on new skills or behaviours might be an example.)

In working with our clients to improve business results from learning, we have found that we can enhance the quantity and quality of manager involvement by making it easier and more efficient for them to play their part. We have automated much of the process to enable delivery of crucial information and tools to managers in the right format and at just the right time to make it easy for them to fulfil their role, while reducing the administrative burden for training and development staff.

So, what are you doing in your organisation to ensure learning transfer? Have you encountered challenges in getting managers to commit to coaching and follow-up? What have you done to get them involved? Let us hear your comments and ideas.

About the Author
Ed Emde

Ed Emde

Ed Emde, President of Wilson Learning Corporation, is responsible for overall business strategy and operations in the Americas. Ed’s tenure at Wilson Learning Corporation includes serving as Executive Vice President where he was responsible for sales, marketing, and learning services operations for Wilson Learning Americas. Earlier in his Wilson Learning career, Ed managed business development and implementation services for key client relationships in the Midwest United States.

Ed has 25 years of experience working directly with senior level executives in linking human resources development, organisational development, training, and education initiatives to strategic imperatives and business outcomes. He has held executive and leadership positions with a number of leading training and organisational development companies, including Ninth House and serving as President and CEO of Blessing White. He has managed several successful turnarounds, as well as the acquisition, merger, and integration of several businesses. Ed is published in numerous print and on-line business publications, including CLO Magazine and Training Magazine.

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