Senior managers shun training

Apr 20 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Senior managers in many organisations appear to have an ambivalent attitude towards their own training and development needs as a new survey reveals that of all corporate staff levels, the most senior are the least likely to get training.

In fact, while nine out of 10 first-line managers will receive training this year, only six out of 10 senior executives will be joining them, according to the survey by Boston-based consulting and training firm, Novations Group.

"Leadership development professionals have long known that top management is sometimes ambivalent when it comes to any type of training," said Paul Terry, Novations Vice President for Talent Management.

"Nevertheless, the rate at which senior-level people get development support is probably greater than at any time in the past. Organizations are more concerned about bench strength and retiring boomers.

Nevertheless, he added, the findings probably under-estimate how much training senior management is actually getting, since their teams often participate in visioning, coaching, strategic planning and other exercise that add up to training and development in all but name.

The survey of some 2,0000 senior HR and training & development executives found that eight out of 10 entry-level employees and three-quarters of experienced non-management employees and middle-level executives would also be receiving some sort of training this year.

Meanwhile, as Paul Terry pointed out, the importance organizations place on training for their first-line managers highlights that they acknowledge the difficulties many face in transitioning from an individual contributor to a leadership role.

"Often this means putting a gifted technical person into a role that requires the individual to manage other people. And experience tells us this shift is difficult and calls for substantial organizational support and coaching in addition to training," he said.

"By a large margin, training professionals recognize the challenge of moving individuals into a managerial role."

Indeed, two-thirds of those surveyed said that the transition from seasoned professional to a supervisory or managerial role was the most difficult anybody could make during their career.

In contrast, fewer than one in five felt that the move up the ladder from a managerial to a senior executive role was the most taxing.

"Many first-line managers are recently promoted," said Terry. "More senior managers already got some fundamental training. And management understands that first-line managers can have the greatest impact on everyday lives of employees. Effective training for first-line people can help improve retention and engagement."

Yet Terry also argued that the fact that only 18 per cent of respondents believe the transition to senior management is the most difficult suggests organizations are underestimating the size of the challenge.

"A senior executive plays a qualitatively different role in the company and has to have a broader perspective. He or she has to make critical business decisions, set company strategy, muster resources and give direction to the whole organization.

"Consequently, developing a senior person has to be a deliberate and structured process that integrates the right kind of experiences."