7 Reasons Managers Do Not Provide Post-Learning Support  

Published by Preethi B. Rao

In the late 1800s, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus was the first experimental psychologist to study the shape of forgetting and as a result plotted what is known as the Forgetting Curve. Since then, researchers have published studies which repeatedly support the theory that people instantly start forgetting what they’ve just learned. With as much as 70 percent of the knowledge being lost within 24 hours.

Training reinforcement has proved to be key in combating this, and L&D experts are constantly coming up with innovative and hi-tech ways of providing this reinforcement.

However, cutting-edge technologies, micro-learning, and a focus on continued education can never completely replace the support, encouragement, and inspiration that can be provided by a direct manager.  This is due to the fact that it’s not possible for anyone else to be as ‘in sync’ with a trainee participant’s day-to-day activities. This puts the manager in a unique position to know what works well for the participants, where are they struggling, and how they can provide just-in-time support.

Yet often, it is observed that the participants go back to their work-space and find a complete lack of managerial support. In fact, they might even face resistance from their managers when attempting to implement the changes they are trying to make. The consequence of this lack of support leads to over 70 % of participants trying, but failing, to achieve on-the-job behavioral changes as a result of the learning they received.

No manager wants to be labeled an ineffective leader, especially when it is not even in their best interests for their team members to fail. So, why do many still not provide post-training support?

Here are the top 7 reasons and what your organization can do to prevent them:

1) The training program is not in alignment with the manager’s needs or culture or values or expectations for their team

How to fix this: Particularly for mission critical programs, begin to involve managers and business heads right from the start and design the program to suit their needs. Don’t attempt to match a team with a training program after it’s been designed. Tailor your training to address a team’s pain point, understand their needs, ask the right questions using a consultative approach, and then design the program. If after all this, there is still no post-support established, investigate to see if you need to address culture-related issues.

2) Managers don’t really know what training their team members are attending and hence, don’t know how to support their team

How to fix this: Depending on the criticality of the program, take the managers through a condensed outline to help them become familiar with its content. Assist them in understanding their role, expectations from them post-training, and behaviors they should look out for. If necessary, create focused observation sheets for them to make it easier to spot the desired behaviors.

3) The manager believes there is too much time and/or target pressure placed on the team already

How to fix this: Show them the money. Show them how the success of their team members will lead to a positive impact on the business. Help them see the value of supporting their team members in reaching the desired behaviors at the earliest convenience. This is best done in programs that are designed for the specific needs of the business.

4) Managers think training is just ‘fluff’ and it is not going to add any real value

How to fix this: This perception is usually due to L&D teams being order-takers rather than consultants who can partner with functional heads to optimize the business. The L&D function must step up and gain a seat at the table by demonstrating how training can help to impact the bottom line and add value to the business.

5) Managers believe they are being supportive, but they end up doing more harm than good

How to fix this: Many managers achieve this status because they are good at their jobs, not because they necessarily have the best leadership qualities. This means that very often they are not skilled at giving feedback or coaching their team members. It is important to up-skill the managers and empower them with the most effective feedback and coaching skills. In the beginning, it might be important to give them focused tools to use while observing and providing feedback.

6) Managers find it difficult to connect with every team member and provide feedback

How to fix this: In today’s fast-paced, virtual world—despite the best intentions—managers are often not able to connect with their teams enough to provide on-going support. For this, it is imperative to use tools such as Promote or other learning transfer platforms. These tools allow managers and participants to keep in touch on a focused topic over an extended period of time. The connection does not necessarily have to happen in real time. The participant may post a comment about a topic and the manager can respond at a convenient time. Such a tool also helps them track the progress of their entire team, encourage those lagging, and reward the performers, etc.

7) Managers think it’s not their job since ‘Learning’ is the job of the L&D function!

How to fix this: Since no one has told them otherwise, managers develop a belief that learning is the sole responsibility of the L&D function and that their role is just to ensure that they nominate team members to attend the training. Nothing could be further from the truth though, and it is the responsibility of the L&D function to provide relevant research to managers such as the Professor Brinkerhoff’s study on the importance of post-training support. It is also important to agree on the degree of support expected at the beginning of the discussion about the program rather than to spring it as a surprise at the end. Hence, there is a need to keep managers in the loop about the training program from start to finish.

Learning can be successfully transferred on-the-job with the right course content and delivery; by ensuring a certain level of post-training support and creating a conducive learning environment for participants at the workplace. It is crucial to get the right balance of these to achieve the perfect recipe for training success.


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