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5 Ways to Get Leaders on Board with Training

It’s safe to say that most HR professionals wish they had a bigger budget for training. No matter the size of your company or your role within training, there is always more you can do to put training programs in place that support employee growth, improve customer service, and enhance leadership. 

An astounding 83 percent of employees say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers opportunities and advancement. Now is the time for leaders to take a strong interest and partner with HR to establish a culture of professional and personal development if they want to keep talent engaged. 

When implementing or improving a training program, it’s important that you have a strategy. It is key to

• analyze your company’s current needs and how training could affect those needs
• determine what programs you already have in place that you can use again later
• ensure that your leadership is on board and supports training efforts.
While research supports leaders taking an active role in training, many fail to fully invest their time and resources. They have a lot on their plate and the age-old debate of what takes priority—the urgent order or sitting in a training—tends to cloud over even the best leader at times. Our role as learning and development professionals isn’t to go around leaders and make training happen on our own. We must work with leaders and through the business to achieve the sustained results we need. 

So how exactly do you get leaders really engaged and own their role in training? 

Make it part of their review and job description. When we are held accountable to something and our performance is discussed, we take every necessary step to make it happen. By ensuring that leaders are formally held responsible for developing their teams, you set the stage as an organization that training is important to everyone, from the top down.


Highlight those leaders who are development pros. Instead of calling out the leaders who do not train or develop their teams, shine the spotlight on those who are doing a great job. Seeing others recognized helps us understand exactly what it takes to succeed in the company. Give out an award once a year to the leader who embraces learning and present it to them during a company meeting or share it in a company newsletter. Others will soon begin asking how they, too, can “win” the award, and you will have more engaged leaders ready for action!

Make sure their leader is making it a priority. If HR is constantly talking about the value and importance of training and developing your teams but your own boss doesn’t do anything to engage and develop you, there is a disconnect. Encourage the leaders’ leaders to foster a development culture. Follow up monthly to see how they’re doing and hold all leaders accountable for the continued success of their teams. Do not make this a role for midlevel managers to play alone.

Make a case for training, and share the value. In business and in life, those who can clearly define the goals behind an initiative and share why it is important build the best traction and get people on board with an idea. Knowing how it will affect those involved and speaking to the benefits give you an advantage when the time comes to hold them accountable. We do not want leaders to simply go through the motions. It is important that they give training their genuine attention to achieve a successful outcome. Show them statistics about the positive impact training can have on a business. Here are a few to get you started.

Be a solid partner for leaders. Just as you want them to get on board with training and development, you need to be there to help encourage and guide them along the way. Be open to their ideas, and truly listen when they present a roadblock or problem. Give them the tools they need to be successful. Meet with them often to provide feedback and help them improve training options. By being their partner, you’ll build a trusted relationship where there are no walls or barriers to overcome. Work hard to do this with every leader in your organization—it will pay off when you have strong leaders who value the work you are doing to help them keep their teams engaged and high-performing. 

While we cannot wave a fairy wand over leaders to magically get them on board with training, these action items will help you move in the right direction. You’ll be able to show leaders the value of training and that they have a trusted learning and development partner.
© 2017 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Lisa Whealon is the chief people officer for GL group, a premier provider of literature and educational materials. Whealon has been with GL group for seven years and currently oversees the HR function, including talent development and acquisition, organizational design, and internal communications for the four-division company.  Culture is king at GL group, and Whealon leads the people initiatives, which includes creating a new WOW! benefit every year. She has helped launch GL group’s Emergent Leader Program and GL University and assists in the support of WOW! Benefits, such as Sandy Vacations, the Marcia Jaffe Scholarship, and Bring-Your-Baby-to-Work. Whealon serves on the Forbes HR Council and is a member of the local and national SHRM and ATD chapters.  Prior to her work at GL group, Whealon worked as an executive team leader for a big box retailer and was responsible for business operations and talent development and lead key people initiatives.
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