Bigger Brains in Your Business

Bigger Brains in Your Business


Does your business have an organisational framework that supports managers and leaders as they continue to develop their skills beyond any skills programmes they have taken? How often have you personally been on a course, loved it, and then never implemented a single learning?

We can all agree that in today’s competitive environment upskilling is essential, but for short, executive skills development programmes to lead to improved management and leadership performance (which is really the point, after all), they need to be credible and inspirational. The lessons learnt need to be applicable and the consequential behaviours of attendees need to be measurable.

Michael Leimbach and Ed Emde of Wilson Learning Worldwide and Wilson Learning Corp respectively, identified the ‘Rule of Three’; those critical areas where organisations can improve learning transfer from the classroom to the workplace. Each of these needs to be factored into the roll out of all short executive programmes, including seminars and workshops:

  1. Learner readiness
  2. Design for transfer
  3. Organisational alignment

Learner readiness

Organisations need to identify the specific skills/competencies required and the behaviours that would demonstrate mastery of these. These elements are essentially the ‘input’ and ‘output’ of any skills development programme; the former determines the content and the latter the measures of success.

By being explicit about the competencies and behaviours that managers will be expected to demonstrate following training sets an expectation for those attending and contributes to ‘learner readiness’.

Further, many organisations fail to manage learner motivation ahead of training; attendees need to be positive about the opportunities a workshop may offer, about the impact it may have on their development and career prospects and the chances they will have to practice new skills. Research shows that addressing these factors can increase transfer of skills to the job by up to 70%.

Design for transfer

Management theory can be taught in a classroom but for strong management skills to be entrenched, they need to be practiced over time. It is important to match desired competencies with the appropriate learning platform e.g. foundational knowledge (such as management theory) can be transferred via an e-learning platform but behavioural competencies should be practiced in active learning workshops[1] that are scheduled over a period of time.

Active learning workshops, like those me and the team deliver, are highly interactive; participants are called on to engage in activities and discussions throughout the training session(s). Facilitators make use of various media to illustrate key learning points, including video clips, music and drama. Most of all, our coaching style allows delegates to have FUN. That way, they learn more, remember more and apply more.

Programme content should consistently communicate key management messages (e.g. desired behaviours, attitudes, vision and mission) so that organisational culture can be fostered. Also, workshops must build on each other; knowledge/experience gained in previous sessions should be applied to new concepts e.g. if someone has developed a high level of awareness of what is happening around him, he can now learn to assimilate information in a way that allows him to think strategically.

Organisational alignment

During sessions, I discuss how to address real-life scenarios and barriers participants believe they will encounter when they apply what they have learnt during training. If roll out of a programme is to be widespread, this should be done at the development stage and reviewed after each session.

It may be that organisational factors will inhibit the success of a management training initiative e.g. emotional intelligence training is doomed to failure in an autocratic organisation, where employees don’t refer to each other by their first names, where they live in fear of retribution and they dare not disagree with their superiors.

In such a situation, work needs to be done on the broader organisational factors such a culture and management style before emotional intelligence workshops can be successfully rolled out.

After training, contexts must exist to help participants retain the training and develop and practice new skills eg:

  • Situations in which practice is immediate and frequent, such as a challenging meeting can allow a manager to practice conflict resolution
  • Attendees should be held accountable to a higher level of performance. For example, new behavioural competencies can be linked to an individual’s Key Performance Indicators
  • Short executive programmes, including seminars and workshops, should not be isolated from related people-development initiatives like mentorship and coaching.  Once again, these initiatives need to be developed in a way that ensures consistency in both the message/learning content and the application thereof within the organisation.

In summary, originations need to follow the ‘Rule of Three’ for short executive programmes to be effective: They need learner readiness, design for transfer and organisational alignment.

Deidre Elphick-Moore
Deirdre Elphick-Moore, has an Honours Degree in Psychology and over ten years of international experience in human capital management at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Co-founding The Office Coach in 2009, she now focuses on personal and workplace effectiveness training and development. Her relaxed, engaging style encourages people to learn more, remember more and apply more in their workplaces, as well as inspiring to consistently better themselves in the work place.