Help trainees’ managers make training stick

Most research on training transfer points to trainees’ managers as critical factors in whether training is applied.  An online poll conducted in May of this year by the career management firm Lee Hecht Harrison reports that of the more than 450 individuals throughout the US who responded, about 50% felt their manager was never or rarely interested in their professional development.


“Do you feel your manager is interested in your professional development?”

Mostly                                22%

Sometimes                         27%

Rarely                                26%

Never                                26%

While 49% of respondents felt their managers were sometimes or mostly interested in their professional development, Karen Leverone, Senior Vice President for Lee Hecht Harrison, points out “If you are not actively engaging and supporting the people who work for you, you’re probably not getting their best work.”  That’s a lot of organizations who aren’t getting their employees’ best work!   

What’s a trainer or HR professional to do?  We know how important manager support is for application of training to the job.  But do the managers?  Whining, preaching, and complaining are not the best approaches to get managers’ attention.  Yet often this is what I see and hear trainers and HR people doing.  And often they are doing it with each other rather than reaching out to the managers.

Instead try these simple strategies to help managers understand how important their role is and specifically what they can do to help their employees apply what they learn in training to do their jobs better.

  1. Prepare an email that can be sent to each manager when a participant registers for a training class or begins it that recaps the purpose of the e-learning, face to face, or live virtual training (in plain English – no instructional objectives, please) and how participants should be expected to apply what they learn.  LMSs can be helpful to automate this, but doing it manually takes less than 30 seconds per participant. Use graphics or a slide or two from the training to make an email that is more appealing than simple text. Remember, the message that is different and stands out will be the message that gets read and remembered.

Ask the manager to do 2 things that each take less than one minute:  1.  communicate with their employee about why the training is important and how they should apply it, and 2. find and suggest ways the employee can practice and use their learning right after they take the training.

  1. Make a 1-3 minute webcam video with the above information.  Even a talking head video will be noticed more than a simple text email, and managers may appreciate seeing the “person behind the training”.

  2. Send each boss a Boss Bookmark (electronic or hard copy) for more specific before, during, and after suggestions.

  3. Prepare a business case for each training program.  Include such information as the cost for developing and deploying the training, the dollars and cents benefit to the organization, and the opportunity cost for not using the training.  Share this information in your communication (see above).  (For example, the opportunity cost for not using customer service skills is lost or dissatisfied customers.  For technical or operational training, it is errors of many sorts and consequences.)

  4. After training, send reminders to managers to follow up and provide opportunities to practice and use.   Once again, LMSs come in handy for this since they can usually be programmed to automatically send out these types of communications at predetermined times.  If an LMS isn’t available, however, use an email distribution list to get the job done – it takes less than a minute.

Prepare these manager communications ahead of time in the program design or the facilitator prep.  That way they are ready to go when the time is right.

Remember, many managers won’t know or remember how they need to support their employees’ training unless we help them!  Using these simple techniques will make the training stick much better.

**For more ideas and techniques, check out my books:  Making Training Stick: A Training Transfer Field Guide, Making Learning Stick, and Making E-Learning Stick. 

Until next time….

P.S. Follow me on Twitter: @StickyTraining

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