Ongoing professional development is a critical component of developing effective leaders within any organization, and most organizations dedicate a significant amount of time and financial resources to sending team members to training programs. Nevertheless, many are overlooking what may be the most important part of the process: post-training follow-up. When leaders are sent away for several days or even a few weeks for specialized training and education, they are essentially learning a new language, form of communication and mindset that impact the way they engage with their teams going forward.
Unfortunately, when you only send one leader to training, they come back speaking this new language, which few others understand, and often grow frustrated when they find all their revived energy encounters only blank stares of confusion. Eventually, the leader gives up, and all those new ideas are left untapped — to the detriment of the leader, their team and the entire organization. However, there are several ways your organization can support leaders after training and foster the propagation of their new learnings for the benefit of the entire company.
Perhaps the most important aspect of post-training support is active engagement from the leader’s direct manager. Rather than flooding them with tasks and questions that came up while they were out for their development program, the manager should schedule time to have a “download” session with them to learn what they gained from the experience and how they plan to bring ideas back to the team.
Also, the manager should take this opportunity to learn about how the learner would like to move forward with their professional development in the future. Not only will you and the manager gain insight into how useful the course was, but taking this time provides the manager with the added benefit of relationship-building and career development planning with their employee.
Internal Surveys and Feedback
Another way you can support the training experience is to ask for formal feedback about the course or program. Formal surveys are a great way to gauge the effectiveness of the training, what the attendees felt were the key takeaways that benefit the company, and recommendations as to whether or not it makes sense to send others through the same or similar courses.
Often, feedback is anecdotal, which can be helpful; however, it is more powerful to collect more concrete information, because it provides a solid basis for future learning initiatives as well as additional justification for budget requests to fund more training opportunities. Also, having reliable information about which courses work best for different learners prevents the overwhelm that can occur when different team members bring in a variety of unvetted programs for approval. Instead, you have a repository of proven development programs to share with them.
One key benefit of increased management engagement and formal feedback processes is that you gain valuable insight into which programs are impactful enough to warrant sending others in the organization. Expanding access to successful programs deeper within the company addresses the challenge presented when one leader speaks this new “language.”
On a larger scale, propagating these new ideas and skills throughout the company can shape your culture in productive and supportive ways. Creating an environment of continuous learning and collaboration leads to innovation and long-term growth. Leaders are part of the larger company system, and it is unrealistic to expect meaningful change without increasing participation across the board.
For organizations ready to take leadership development to the next level, individual coaching is a powerful tool that moves beyond the theoretical/academic environment of formal training programs. Providing formal coaching to your leaders allows them to work one-on-one with a coach to address specific challenges and opportunities they face daily as well as help them look at the bigger strategic picture for their organization and careers.
Group training and education programs are helpful in providing a strong overview of concepts and tools, and providing coaching afterward helps the leader to put together clear plans to execute on his or her expanded knowledge to create positive outcomes for the organization.
The investment companies make in professional development courses is significant, making it imperative to maximize their benefit for the leader and the organization. Training programs don’t end at the classroom door, and your leaders must have the support when they return to the office to retain and pay that knowledge forward.