How to Design an Executive Overview of a Training Program

Executive Debrief : Photo by Burst

What does training look like in your organization?

Are the trainees in front-line or lower-level managerial roles, and their bosses (or their bosses bosses) have no clue what happened in the training or how to reinforce it?

Don’t despair. This is the situation in probably 95% of training that is occurring in corporate America.

The good news is – we have a solution for you.

One of our clients recently asked us how best to apprise their senior levels of management regarding leadership training that they were rolling out at lower levels.

We gave them three suggestions to try; here they are for you, too.

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Audience: The managers (and their managers, if appropriate) of trainees who are currently in or have just completed a training program.

Timing: No more than 2-days following the conclusion of training; preferably during the same period as when the trainees are in their learning session.  For example, the trainees are in training Monday through Wednesday and the managers have their overview on one of those days.

Length: 2 – 3 hour “executive session.”

Materials: An outline of the training topics, the learning objectives of each, and a statement of what this new skill looks like in practice.  For example, “The first half of day two was spent on how to give constructive feedback. The trainees were given a 3-step process to follow which includes 1, 2, 3. The objective is to have the trainees nip poor performance early, rather than waiting for an actionable offense and/or waiting for yearly reviews.  In practice this should look like more informal and one-on-one conversations with their employees. Expect to see the trainees on the floor more. If you see them behind closed doors with one of their employees, don’t worry – it might be a more private conversation but not a corrective action conversation.”

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Three delivery methods / activities:

(NOTE: Do not do all of these in one session. You can combine 1 + 2 or 1 + 3 or simply use 1 as a stand-alone approach.  The right choice is usually dependent on how far up the chain the executive is in relation to the attendee.

1️ Emphasize the more-senior manager’s role in making the training stick; since their employees went through it, ultimately it is something they are accountable for.  Make a presentation, giving a high level, “This is what we taught and how people internalized it (meaning how they learned it… through activities, through dialogue, through a worksheet, etc.). You’ll probably see this practiced on the job in these xx ways and YOUR role in supporting this new (fill in the blank) is this…”

This makes the more senior manager realize, I’m not just getting an overview? I’m responsible for it? This, quite honestly, can come as a surprise to some senior managers. They are often of the mindset that they are sending their employees out to “be fixed,” but that they don’t need to be involved in the process or its transfer on-the-job.

2️ Another option is to conduct an activity that asks the more senior managers to take what their employees learned in the training and link it to their business goals (their department or the organization as a whole). When they have to intellectually work with the content and WHY their people went through it (for the good of the company in some way) they are much more likely to support it and reinforce it in action. This is particularly interesting when you have senior managers of different divisions because all of their links will be different. For example, one might say, “My managers need to give more constructive feedback because their employees are customer-facing,” while another might say, “My managers need to give more constructive feedback because we are in a highly regulated environment with no room for error.” 

3️ Finally, a third option is to give the more senior managers an assignment to meet individually with everyone “beneath” them that went through the training and ask that employee what she/he got from it and what they intend to put in to practice. These conversations have amazing effects because an employee is more likely to actually put new skills in to practice when they’ve dialogued about it and committed to it with their boss (or their bosses bosses). To help the senior managers be more successful in these conversations, you can create a group activity in which they brainstorm and identify three questions they want to ask of the trainee.

A significant portion of the success of any training program is having the trainee’s leaders a part of the process; most especially if they are part of the process to transfer to the job. Good luck implementing these executive overview design options!