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How to Get Management Support for Training Initiatives

We’re excited today to have a guest post from Sybil F. Stershic, president of Quality Service Marketing. Sybil is a marketing and organizational advisor with more than 30 years of experience helping service providers strengthen employee and customer relationships.

“To have a lasting effect on employees, learning programs must receive buy-in and support from an organization’s managers.” -Jeffrey Berk

You put a lot of effort into developing new training content and its delivery based on a needs assessment and understanding of what’s needed to meet attendees’ diverse learning styles. Unless you pay as much attention to obtaining management’s support for new training, however, you’ll be wasting your precious time and energy.

Senior and middle manager buy-in is critical to training and learning development. Yet managers may not understand that their role in supporting training goes beyond mere approval (“Our employees need this training, so make it happen.”) to being actively involved in reinforcing new training initiatives.

“To have a lasting effect on employees, learning programs must receive buy-in and support from an organization’s managers. For any program to be successful … there must be manager responsibility and involvement to maximize the impact on the job.” Jeffrey Berk, The Importance of Management Support for Training

You can avoid training in a vacuum by proactively applying internal marketing to reach the managers whose support and reinforcement are critical to your learning and development efforts. Here’s a strategic communications checklist you can use to obtain managers’ support before, during and after training is completed.

Prior to launching any major training initiative:

  • Share the rationale behind your new program – clarify and communicate why the training is important and what you’re trying to accomplish with it.
  • Align training’s efforts with your company’s mission and strategic plan to send the message “We’re all in this together.”
  • Get manager input to understand and be sensitive to how their employees’ work will be affected by participation in training. As a result, you’ll be better prepared to deal with potential reluctance to attend training due to timing, location and other work-related challenges.
  • Engage managers in the actual training, even if it’s an abridged version, so they: 1) understand your training program’s goals and content, and 2) know what’s needed and expected of them to reinforce training results.

Once your new training program is up and running, you can’t afford to put it on auto-pilot:

  • Periodically monitor the program’s progress by staying in touch with managers and employees to get their feedback and maintain momentum.
  • Share interim results with management, including any fine-tuning that’s needed to tweak the program.
  • Recognize and reinforce management’s support with a thank-you (email or written note) that can be sent with or separate from interim progress reports.

And when the training program is completed:

  • Share final results with managers to let them know what worked and why as well as what didn’t work and why.
  • Acknowledge managers’ individual and collective efforts in supporting training and organizational goals.
  • In addition to program evaluations, solicit manager feedback to improve future training initiatives.

Keep in mind you can also reinforce management’s support at any time before, during or after new training programs. For example, if you plan to use tangible items related to the training itself, such as themed mugs, pens, notepads, t-shirts, etc., order extra to share with managers. You might also host a breakfast or luncheon to thank managers for supporting training.

These activities and/or specialty items don’t need to be extravagant. Be creative in adapting what will work best based on your budget and workplace culture.

“Learning is not an isolated event, it is fostered and encouraged (or discouraged!) by every other aspect of the organization.” Jovana Husic, How to Create A World-Class Learning Organization