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Career Advice | 5 minute read

Train Execs In 4 Simple Steps: Harness The Leadership Skills You Need

February 15, 2016

The need for training is undisputable. Companies invest a great deal of time and effort into educating new hires, especially during the onboarding stage, and continue to promote growth and development to non-management employees. However, this commitment to training may lose steam as people move up through the company and become managers and executives. In fact, managers and executives might be more difficult to train than non-managers, because:

  • They might be comfortable with operating in their role with their existing skills 
  • They are busy, which makes it hard to schedule training sessions
  • They might not feel leadership training is an organizational imperative

Leadership training plays a large role in succession planning: download succession planning at a glance now.

Don’t let your top employees fall into those traps. Leadership team development and training executives are critical exercises because they are agents of your organization, and their actions could have legal ramifications. (Consider the cost if someone isn’t up to date on current company policies or legal requirements around hiring, for example!) Managers and executives with inferior or outdated information may jeopardize their own careers, and are in a poor position to help their own employees succeed.

We asked Roberto Chavarry, a professor of human resources at the University of South Florida, for his thoughts on training managers and executives. Here’s what he told us.

Find out what kind of training you need

Before you embark on any kind of leadership training program, first consider what leadership traits your managers and executives need to improve upon. This is not a simple question, as different people may need different types of training to advance in their careers, perform their jobs and help their employees develop. No one has an unlimited training budget, so it’s important to prioritize.

Training can cover a variety of topics for managers and executives, including:

  • Job skills: Do they have the information they need to succeed in their roles?
  • Leadership skills: Are they effective at leading their employees?
  • Technology: Can they use the software platforms and other technology required to do their jobs and manage employees?
  • Compliance: Do they know company policies and employment law?

Find the right format

Once you determine what kind of training your managers and executives need, the next step is to figure out how to deliver it. There are many options for training today: in a classroom, online and on-the-job to name a few.

The most effective way to train managers and executives, Chavarry says, is in small groups. Preferably, these meetings will take place in person. “Face-to-face is always most effective,” he says. “People communicate better when they can see the other people.”

The reason for this, he says, is that a lot of communication is nonverbal. With conventional online training, no matter how small the group is, learners can’t see the instructor or other participants. This means they miss important facial cues or hand gestures that may be just as important as the words themselves. After all, something said with a shrug can have a different meaning than the same thing said with a smile. 

Gathering high-level employees in one place may be difficult and expensive, especially for virtual organizations where managers and executives at all levels may be located in different cities, states or countries. In that case, companies may want to consider an interactive video solution that allows people to see each other, as opposed to a voice-only approach.

Get leadership involved

What if managers and executives don’t feel they need training, or that they’re too busy for it? Don’t put up with that kind of thinking. Continuous education is critical to organizations, so it needs to be embraced as a priority at the top of the company. 

“For training to be successful, you need the organization at the highest level to support it,” Chavarry says.

Leadership buy-in is so important because it sets the tone for the rest of the company. The CEO and other leaders should emphasize the importance of training for managers and executives in regular communications — speeches, newsletters and organizational updates. When leadership touts training, the entire company listens.

Measure success

You’ve trained your managers and executives, but did the information stick? Measuring results a few weeks or months after the training will help you ascertain whether the lessons worked. The best way to measure effectiveness is by taking a benchmark before the training starts, and then comparing it to performance afterward. For example, if the training revolves around employee satisfaction, you may consider measuring the number of complaints (and compliments) before and after. If you don’t see performance improvements, a different type of training might be necessary.

Make leadership training part of your succession planning strategy. Download our at-a-glance document today.


About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.