No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Why management training isn’t working


Gail Brown, the managing partner of ExecPlus, looks at the current state of management training.

What was your last management training course like? Let me guess... you got given a case study, you took on the roles of the characters (with the regulation embarrassed giggling and shuffling), the rest of your group pulled you to bits at the end of it, the trainer told you how you should have done it and then you went back to work, felt motivated and implemented everything you learnt. Didn’t you? Oh well, maybe you just enjoyed the biscuits.

The way management training is offered at the moment is as a generic service that isn’t relevant to specific applications – teaching management techniques by industriously assembling pyramids of paperclips is not the type of transitional learning experience that translates easily into the working life of a senior manager.

More often than not management training is based on theory rather than practice. There’s no support for implementing the new techniques into the organisation, no method for maintaining the momentum you have gained, no incentive to implement it when you get back and no-one to help you make it work. All too often training is seen as a jolly day out, and that combined with the element of employees being sent on courses to appease an HR director trying to use up the budget means it has been overlooked as a serious tool for improvement at senior level. Managers get sent for training because their superiors feel that any training would probably be beneficial, regardless of its relevance. HR managers take the easy option and rather than looking for targeted training courses, send round a shopping list.

Training has been sold as a commodity rather than a consultancy service. Once courses were completed there was no way of measuring success, so courses that didn’t get anywhere flourished. Once evaluation did evolve it manifested itself in “happy sheets” which were relevant to the day and not to future results. To be of any use whatsoever, training evaluation should be long term, after one month, then two months, six months and a year. Investors in People is encouraging this but it is still taking a long time to become automatic.

The group dynamic is a key issue. As the attendee of a management training course you have two options in terms of your training companions. You are either presented with a group of people to whom you don’t relate, which means you don’t get, or even particularly want, the support of the group. The alternative is a group of people you know all too well and in front of whom you don’t want to ask questions.

One alternative is a series of group sessions, with the group comprising contemporaries from different companies in the region. A group that keeps in touch on a regular basis will enjoy each other’s achievements, will trust and feel supported by other members, will be relaxed enough to experience the success of others, but at the same time of course benefit from a little healthy competition. No matter how inspired you were in your group session, if you go back to an environment where people are negative toward your enthusiasm, you will lose it. If you go back to a forum and discuss that issue itself, you can re-boost your motivation, and recharge your initial belief in the idea.

The benefits of forums and on-going coaching are just as relevant to in-house groups. The forums lessen conflict within the senior management team, and one-to-one coaching allows individuals to boost their strengths and manage their weaknesses without looking vulnerable.

Turning our attention to those at the front of the group, we come up against the “theory not practice” argument. Using management training deliverers means that everything ticks along like clockwork as long as you stick to the trainers’ script. Asking a direct and specific question inevitably results in “Well, let’s open this up to the group” which in turn provokes a sea of blank faces and the impression that you have just committed an unforgivable faux pas.

A training deliverer’s objective will be to deliver the training, usually a course that has been written once, churned out endlessly and delivered by different people. The objective of an experienced training practitioner and facilitator will be to enhance the ability of the attendees to perform their task or role to the best of their ability and ensure that no one person dominates the group. Every group needs to have somebody directing the shared knowledge to them, rather than just throwing it at them and letting them handle and interpret it themselves. If the trainer has had management experience has been at the sharp end and can cope with specific practical questions then each member of the group benefits. An experienced training practitioner will have a clear objective for each session but the way that objective is reached will depend on the audience, not the agenda.

I am not blaming the providers of off the shelf training. They are responding to a market need – the problem is the market does not need what it thinks it does. Once you have had your training, the drawbridge comes down and the access to knowledge is denied, no matter how important your question. It’s the equivalent of selling sweets – you are not trying to nourish anybody, but you are answering a short-term need by giving immediate gratification.

So isn’t it about time we switched the quick fix, instant gratification and no lasting benefit attitude to training to a healthy eating, slow-burn approach with long lasting benefits and a clear long term goal? If your management team’s got a marathon ahead of it, wouldn’t you rather it was training on pasta rather than chocolate bars?


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!