Get Help for the 2 Most Common L&D Challenges with Management

February 28, 2018

2 Most Common L&D Challenges with Management

Ask most any L&D professional about the challenges they face in the area of training evaluation. The short list of common issues almost always contains “management.”

There are two specific questions Jim Kirkpatrick and Wendy Kirkpatrick hear regularly on this topic. Their answers will help you improve your partnership with management and, in turn, increase the success of your initiatives.

Question #1:  How do we get management on board?

The importance of getting key stakeholders to “sign on” to your initiative rather than “signing off” on it is paramount. It’s also just the beginning. 

First, start with the relationship. The human element is needed in order to build strategic and tactical bridges. It must be part of your approach. From a high level, this means personally going to them and discussing performance and business challenges that they face, and for which you can offer help. Seek first to understand rather than prematurely selling them your solutions. Earn the right to be heard to build trust.

We clearly divide “management” into two tiers: Strategic senior leadership, and line managers and supervisors. For both, prepare a business case for why the initiative needs to happen, which should be tied to the highest-level business results. You need their active buy-in. Create a burning platform. If your why is not related to strategic business goals, you will quickly lose their interest.

When marching orders are given for training, specifically engage the program sponsors in dialogue about the specific intent of the program. It’s important that you ask the right questions to reveal the true needs behind the training request. If you don’t fully understand the problem, you might rush in with a training program that doesn’t solve it, thus causing you to lose stakeholder trust.

It’s important to relate to your audience. Knowing how to communicate with both tiers of management will help you meet them where they are. Senior management wants high-level data. They seek the bigger picture of progress in the form of sales, market share or whatever the measurement may be.

Supervisors and direct managers deal with more tactical information. They’re interested in performance, Level 3. With both, building the relationship bridge comes first.

To equip yourself to gather, analyze and present this business-based data to the two tiers, you first have to review the vast amount of time, effort and data at Kirkpatrick Levels 1 and 2, and redeploy efforts to focus on Levels 3 and 4. Keep in mind that management is generally disinterested in learning analytics. Give them what they want.

This is a broad overview. For a detailed, step-by-step approach, revisit Jim’s blog post outlining this very topic, including a real-world example.

Question #2:  How do we demonstrate our value?

It is imperative that you speak the language of your stakeholders. Terms like “learning programs” and ”learning teams” are a foreign language to them. Such terms scream “Cost Center” to leadership and can be the kiss of death for your initiatives and possibly even your job. In short, using training language is not the way to connect or build that bridge.

Talk about your learning and performance team. Line managers want to know you as a performance consultant. Executive leaders want to see you as a strategic business partner.

Always talk about the “initiative,” “program,” or “package.” They need to be clear that this is not just a one-time training event. Concern yourself with on-the-job performance and subsequent results. In your post-training updates to management, you’ll of course want to share what is going well, but you also must share what is not going well. Acknowledging what isn’t working is the first step in creating a plan to implement appropriate interventions, before you collect final data that indicates program failure.

Don’t take your title or even your job description too literally. Many, or perhaps most, L&D titles and job descriptions are behind the times. “Instructional Designer,” “Corporate Trainer,” “Learning Professional,” “L&D Manager,” “Learning Solutions Provider” and their subsequent job descriptions are strongly geared toward Kirkpatrick Levels 1 and 2 – Reaction and Learning

These titles do not contain even a hint of being connected to the business.There is probably little in the job description that encourages building bridges with business leaders and leveraging business partnerships.

The Kirkpatricks encourage you to avoid the allure of training activity.  Don’t mistake training activity for value. It’s a sharp reminder to redirect your efforts so stakeholders see you as more than just a trainer.

Join the Discussion

What has been your experience with getting manager buy-in for training initiatives? We’d love to hear about your challenges and successes.

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Additional Resources

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certification Program – Bronze Level

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation

Creating ROE: The End Is the Beginning

Kirkpatrick Foundational Principles

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