Ever wondered why the management development programme your organisation invested in didn’t deliver what was expected?

Alternatively, have you personally ever attended a development programme or training course and didn’t get out of it what you had hoped?

Some of these answers can be found in recent research that has tried to explain how people learn and develop.  In other words, how we come to know what we know, and how we change behaviour and performance in response to our development.  Many years of research have identified a number of common practices that are vital to ensuring individuals benefit from their own development.

Whether you have a role in organising or delivering management training, it is worth bearing these in mind.

  1. Make the learning relevant. We remember things better when they relate to us, and we are more likely to take in what we are being told when we can apply it to our own work or home lives.  It is therefore essential that abstract concepts or models are made personally relevant using practical examples and case studies.
  2. Make sure the learning can be applied immediately. We forget things that we don’t regularly practice.  Conversely, we quickly embed our learning when we can use it regularly.
  3. Keep the learning interactive. This sounds simple, but sometimes trainers are unaware of how much they “talk at” rather than “discuss with” their participants. Ensure learning sessions are participative, and include creative ways of involving the participants through exercises and discussions.
  4. Limit the use of film/DVD. Few things are more passive than watching television. Of course, there are excellent resources available in this medium, many of which can be very helpful. It is just important to make sure this does not become the primary means of communication.
  5. Regularly review.  Spend the first five minutes of every session reviewing what occurred in the previous one. This technique can help tie important themes together and promote integration of the training program as a whole as well as the links back to the workplace.
  6. Space out management training sessions. Very little is learned by cramming things in. Make sure that after a training session the participants have an appropriate amount of time to put into practice what they have learned before embarking on the next piece of learning.
  7. Encourage participants to read around the subject. Provide additional reading materials, books, articles internet sites etc to enable the participants to further their development.
  8. Ensure participants are held to account.  Finally, it is important to recognise that development is an investment and that an organisation has the right to expect a return on that investment.  Managers must therefore hold their staff to account.  How have their staff applied their learning?  How has it improved their performance?  Managers who show a genuine interest in their staff and their development will invariably get the most from their investment.