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April 29, 2016

7 ways to avoid Too Busy Syndrome when training managers


training managers - Empty training room

Anyone who’s delivered corporate training or leadership development programs is familiar with the problem: Managers and professionals who are too busy — or feel too busy — to spend time on training.

You know the symptoms:

  • Fewer people than expected register.
  • Last-minute no-shows leave you with empty seats.
  • Participants spend training hours furtively responding to emails on their smartphones.
  • And those who do attend complain they don’t have time to implement what they’ve learned.

There is no single cure for all these symptoms of time-starved managers and professionals. However, there are ways to improve training participation rates and boost the ROI on leadership development programs.

As companies, and their managers, grapple with a faster-changing, more global, more complex marketplace, Too Busy Syndrome probably isn’t going to subside on its own. Rather, our training programs and leadership development offerings must evolve to fit into this new reality.

Here are seven ways training leaders can get more people involved in training programs and increase their impact on the organizations.



1. Ask company leaders to make training a talking point. Employees at all levels take many of their cues from an organization’s leaders. If senior leaders talk publicly and positively about the importance of training, more managers will find time to participate. A CEO who shares a story about how leadership development was important to her career will spur an increase in registrations the next time a leadership development program is offered. Ask company leaders to publicly talk about the importance of training and development.

2. Reward those who participate. Participation in training programs can be made a formal part of periodic employee evaluations (“What courses or training programs has this manager taken this year to improve his/her professional effectiveness?”), giving even busy professionals a reason to register. Likewise, participating in formal training can be made part of an employee’s formal goals for the year.



3. Link training to company challenges. A review of your organization’s strategic plan ought to reveal many opportunities to link training programs to the company’s goals and strategies. For example, if growing through acquisitions is part of the company strategy, then training could be offered to help managers better integrate new units or new teams.

4. Deliver experiential training as part of a new initiative. Instead of making training “something extra,” integrate it into a business initiative. Let’s say your company has put together a cross-functional team to re-engineer some key business processes over the next few months. Create a training program specifically for that team as it tackles that project. Something like Discovery Learning’s Paper Planes Inc. takes just a few hours to conduct, but could be transformative for a group charged with redesigning business systems.

5. Ask managers what they really need. Instead of offering a training program that top executives think their mid-level managers need, ask those managers what really would be helpful. A simple survey or a few short, informal focus groups can provide plenty of insights. Even if employees say they want what you were planning to offer anyway, this feedback may help you market the training program more effectively.



6. Use technology to deliver more flexible training. All of us work in a world mediated by technology. We spend the day staring at computer screens and carry smartphones with us everywhere. So take advantage of all that technology. Corporate training can be delivered via webinars, online assessments and other digital tools. These allow managers to tackle training in shorter sessions over their lunch hours or while they’re traveling.

7. Harness blended training methods for more in-depth programs. For longer, more intensive training and leadership development programs, such as those aimed at high-potential employees, try blended programs. Blended programs mix digital training with in-person and sometimes phone or Skype-based sessions. While these are still relatively time intensive, they are not as demanding as, say, a multi-day offsite program.


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7 tactics for too busy Training managers