Bosses' attitudes undermine training initiatives

2007

British managers are obsessed with their trainers churning out future "leaders", yet at the same time are failing to turn up to courses themselves or pass on their own knowledge.

A study by Ken Blanchard Companies has found that top UK leaders more often than not have overly high expectations of their training managers, constantly demanding they turn out "empowered leaders".

"Developing future leaders" was the top priority for the majority of organisations it polled.

Yet the same leaders often fail to set a good example of what leadership looks like; refusing to go on training courses and showing no interest in sharing responsibility for ensuring training is valued and recognised within their company.

The survey follows a U.S study in November that concluded that businesses are being damaged by an obsession with developing leadership rather than instilling better management skills.

Managers and executives almost always opted for "leadership development" when asked what kind of coaching or training they would prefer, even though they seldom knew what it was they were asking for, Minnesota-based coaching firm CO2 Partners said.

A lack of commitment and buy-in from top management emerged from the UK study as the number one frustration among training managers, cited by almost half of those surveyed.

Many spoke of the inability for senior managers to be good role models and how they struggled to get them to attend courses. More than a quarter felt training was being directed at the wrong employees, either because those who needed it most chose to opt out of non-compulsory training programmes or because there were not sufficient financial resources to extend training adequately. Despite their poor personal example, senior leaders were all too willing to criticise their training departments, the trainers complained.

Nearly three out of five said "proving the impact and ROI of training" was their biggest challenge.

Just under half identified a need to "raise the priority of training and development within (their) organisational culture" as another stumbling block. Jim O'Brien, managing director of The Ken Blanchard Companies UK said: "It seems that while upper management is putting increasing pressure on training managers to justify their existence by proving they can deliver ROI, they are at the same time jeopardising any positive outcomes by their counter-productive behaviour."

The survey also concluded that coaching is now the most popular way to reinforce and follow-up training, and was used by six out of 10 of the employers polled.