Getting Managers Engaged With Employee Training

By holding Management Team Prep Sessions, you increase management engagement in the training process and the likelihood of successful training transfer.

By Dave Basarab

Managers are ultimately responsible for having properly trained employees, but they often don’t have time to properly spearhead training initiatives. For decades, companies have hired professional trainers, taking this task off managers’ plates. There are pros and cons to this approach.

On the plus side, professional training offers:

  • Gold-standard processes and learning experiences
  • More efficient, effective training methods
  • More consistent messages and skill development
  • A less expensive way to train

The problem then becomes:

  • Managers are out of the training loop.
  • Once professional trainers take over, managers at times have little or no idea of what’s happening in training or how to help employees apply key learnings in the workplace.
  • Managers lack the skills on how to best support employees post-program and maximize training transfer.

One solution I have used successfully is what I call the Management Team Prep Session as an integrated piece of a Learning to Performance system. (Download graphic at end of the article.)

The system begins when leadership recognizes a problem and an obstacle to solving the problem is a lack of skills (training). Step 1 is to create an Impact Map for the proposed course or curriculum. The second step entails two simultaneous activities:

  1. Performing instructional design and course development
  2. Redesigning work process and tools participants will use when applying their new/enhanced skills

The third step involves preparing the management team to ensure successful training transfer. Just as important, these sessions should train business leaders on behaviors to avoid, which would inhibit transfer. In the Management Team Prep Session, the desired outcomes are:

  • Inform managers of the business reason and the expected result from training Note all of this data is located in the Impact Map created previously.
  • Communicate to management who should be trained. Many times when I do this session, managers will comment, “Now I understand what the class is and I am sending the wrong people —I now know I need to send these folks instead.” The outcome here ensures we get the right people in the right training at the right time.
  • Show the managers the content of what will be trained. Here you can use the Impact Map, instructional design documents, and any other course materials that have been prepared to educate on what the course is all about and the new skills and knowledge employees will obtain.
  • Discuss with them any changes in work processes and tools that the training will teach. Here, you want to make sure the management team understands what graduates will be doing differently and get support to encourage the change.
  • Ask the management team to hold pre-course conversations with their employees. The desired outcome here is to have alignment so the employees know exactly why they are going to class, how it will benefit them, how it will help their team, and how it can support the business.
  • Also during the session, you want to ask management to hold a post-course conversation with their employees usually no more than one to two weeks after training. During this conversation, we ask management to help refine and finalize action plans created by their employees during class.
  • Finally, you want to educate the managers on all of the various tips and techniques they can use to do post-training coaching and support to maximize performance.

The Story of a Management Team Prep Session

The scenario: Recently, a 100-year-old insurance firm was starting the rollout of a year-long training experience for its underwriting professionals. For nine months, students would complete two 20-minute self-directed courses culminating in a two-day workshop. Just prior to rollout of the first module, we held a virtual Management Team Prep Session with the management team.

The first thing we discussed was the Impact Map that they had helped create for the program. The Impact Map is a proven method for rapidly identifying training needs, evaluating options, and quickly prototyping innovative solutions. Its power lies in providing a clear line that visually links the content of the training to management’s desired outcomes.

Next, we walked the management team through the instructional design, curriculum, and redesigned work processes that their underwriters would use when applying their new/enhanced skills. Successful training needs to be built simultaneously with the work processes and tools and the management team needs to be fully briefed and on board—this seamless integration provides managers and students with an environment where transfer is easy and predictable.

We then taught each manager how to meet with their employees prior to launching the self-directed learning modules. The managers practiced via role-plays on how and what to say during the dialogue and how to make it unique for each employee. We successfully held 24 out of 25 possible meetings. The plan calls for a second Management Team Prep Session just before the workshop.

Next, we asked and taught managers to hold, as part of their monthly staff meeting, a 15- to 20-minute roundtable on the topics taught that month. They gained the skill of how to hold a comfortable, energetic meeting and we provided them with dialogue questions such as:

  • “What did you learn that you did not know?”
  • “What is the biggest personal takeaway for you?”
  • “What are your action plans to apply the content?”
  • “What can we collectively agree to implement next month?”
  • “How will this help our team, customers, and the company?”
  • “How will we measure successful application?”
  • “What help do you need from me and others?”

The meetings are running very well, with the managers showing constant support for training by keeping the new skills top of mind.


By holding Management Team Prep Sessions, you increase management engagement in the training process and the likelihood of successful training transfer.

Senior learning executive, trainer, evaluator, author, teacher, and thought leader Dave Basarab is the inventor of the Learning to Performance approach. He is the author of best-seller “The Training Evaluation Process” and his newest training evaluation book, “Predictive Evaluation,” spotlights his new model in predicting training success. Basarab’s experience includes senior executive learning, development, and teaching roles at Fortune 100 companies, including Motorola, Ingersoll Rand, NCR, and Pitney Bowes. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.