Who plays the most powerful role in a successful education implementation? The employees who are learning, the trainer who leads the class, or the manager of the employees?
Over 20 years ago two notable authors – John Newstrom and Mary Broad — published research that is still relevant today. Transfer Of Training: Action-packed Strategies To Ensure High Payoff From Training Investment
For leaders seeking to achieve large-scale service improvement with a powerful education program, this research is critical.
To evaluate effective transfer of learning, Broad and Newstrom assessed three primary roles – the trainer, the trainee, and the manager – and three time periods – before, during and after the training.
When asked which combination has the most impact on successful application of learning, many people assume what the trainer and the trainees do during a learning event counts most. Hence, substantial effort is invested in planning excellent workshops, choosing the best facilitators, and then assessing what trainees learn.
Yet Broad and Newstrom’s research shows what a manager does before and after training is actually the most powerful influencer and predictor of results.
Unfortunately, in many learning initiatives, the role of the manager is an after-thought, only addressed when a project meets resistance and gets stuck. At which point all effort is focused on salvaging what has been started.
Senior leaders are rarely the problem in large scale learning projects as they must be involved and supportive from the beginning. Facilitators are also rarely the problem as they are usually quite eager to conduct training on topics they value. And frontline employees are rarely the biggest problem, as they are usually enthusiastic, or at least hopeful, about a new direction.
Managers get caught in the cross-fire. They are faced with new expectations from employees and leaders, yet they have the same operational responsibilities as before.
It does not have to be this way. Here are 10 tips for supporting managers before, during and after service learning events:
1. Involve operational managers in program planning and Steering Committees. Secure their input and commitment to content, logistics, goals, and recognition plans. Ask them to help identify barriers and solutions before the problems occur.
2. Set clear accountabilities for managers and integrate these with current KPIs – before you start the learning program. New learning must be seen as key to meeting new targets, not a distraction from achieving current measures.
3. Develop and deploy operational managers as facilitators and coaches. Nothing gains understanding and commitment more than personally preparing to teach new service skills and mentor new behaviors.
4. Conduct workshops specifically for middle managers. Keep the pace moving quickly. Allow time for discussing management related issues.
5. Create job-aids specifically for managers, including key learning points with talking points and coaching tips for ongoing use.
6. Course Leaders, Trainers, or facilitators will introduce new ideas and tools in the classroom. But managers should conduct ongoing mini-workshops to help team members apply what they have learned.
7. Organize contests and rewards for managers who work with their teams to showcase new ideas, new actions, and results.
8. Host frequent manager forums in-person, online, or by teleconference. Conduct application focused mini-workshops exclusively for managers to refresh their enthusiasm and address service management situations.
9. Be sure senior leaders meet regularly with managers to reinforce focus, listen for ideas, and adjust direction and tactics.
10. Finally, gain maximum involvement by rotating selected managers into your Steering Committee and service improvement projects.
What are your managers doing before and after service training programs? What’s working well for you? What tips do you have for others?