If You Want Business Results from Learning, Get Managers Involved

By Ed Emde

This past June we surveyed professionals attending the ASTD International Conference about what they are doing to make sure learning transfers to the job. As people began to fill out the survey, we kept hearing a common question:

“Should we fill this out based on what we know we should be doing or based on what we are doing now?”

As it turns out, most of them are not currently doing certain things they know are important—especially when it comes to getting managers to follow up and reinforce learning on the job. Despite research that shows manager involvement is critical, only 29% of our respondents said their managers were “well prepared to coach and support new skills.”

Should Managers Get Involved in Training?

Why not?? Most managers will tell you they want to develop their people and they want better results from investments in learning. But when you think about it, with all the demands on today’s managers, it’s not surprising that they are reluctant to participate in time-consuming activities for which they feel unprepared and which seem disconnected from their most urgent priorities. When that’s the case, you are just not going to get their mindshare and commitment.

If you want managers to coach, support, and reinforce learning on the job, here are a couple of simple guidelines:

  • Make sure managers are informed and clear about the content and business impact of the learning. How will it help them achieve their business goals?
  • Provide them with tips and tools that make coaching and support easy. (A customized coaching checklist on new skills or behaviors might be an example.)

Consider Wilson Learning as a Solution

In working with our clients to improve business results from learning, we have found that we can enhance the quantity and quality of manager involvement by making it easier and more efficient for them to play their part. We have automated much of the process to enable delivery of crucial information and tools to managers in the right format and at just the right time to make it easy for them to fulfill their role, while reducing the administrative burden for training and development staff.

So, what are you doing in your organization to ensure learning transfer? Have you encountered challenges in getting managers to commit to coaching and follow-up? What have you done to get them involved? Let us hear your comments and ideas.


Ed Emde

“Ed Emde, President of Wilson Learning Corporation, is responsible for business strategy and operations in the Americas. He has over 25 years of experience working directly with senior level executives in linking human resources and organizational development, training, and education initiatives to strategic imperatives and business outcomes.

He has held executive and leadership positions with several leading training and organizational development companies. Ed is published in numerous print and online business publications, including CLO magazine and Training magazine.”