Fifteen to twenty years ago it was not uncommon for organisations to invest a significant amount of time (and money) on highly structured learning and development programmes.

Companies such as IBM, WH Smith and BP had expectations around the number of days per year a manager should invest in their development programmes and syllabuses were set up either internally or in conjunction with Universities and other training providers and one, two or even thee week courses were the norm.

But in today’s busy environment these expectations have changed.  The time pressures on modern managers are such that they cannot realistically spend large blocks of time away from their work.  In addition managers have larger spans of control and are asked to deliver better results than their predecessors and therefore there is an even greater need to provide training and development support.

So what is the solution to the dilemma?  There are a number of practical actions an organisation can take.

  1. Search for opportunities for managers to learn from their work rather than taking them away from it.Give challenging projects and work assignments that will help them learn and develop new skills.
  2. Encourage managers to take greater responsibility for their own learning.Be clear that while the organisation will provide support it is also up to the individual to use their own proactivity and initiative to develop as well.
  3. Develop plans that target what each manager needs to learn and develop and move away from “sheep dip” style training programmes that teach every manager the same skills regardless of their role, skill and experience.
  4. Use self study aids.There are a plethora of articles, books, CD’s and other self study aids available that can be used to support management development.Depending on the number of managers and their needs an e-learning solution may well be an appropriate option.
  5. Look at providing coaching and/or mentoring for managers.These interventions can have a greater impact than attending a training course because they address the individual’s own agenda.In addition they can have the added benefit of being delivered when it suits the manager and their diary commitments.

Learning and development has moved away from the highly structured prescriptive training programmes which take large chunks of management time to a more flexible, tailored approach to suit the needs of the individual manager and their time commitments.