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5 Ways to Engage Senior Leaders in Training Initiatives

By Susan Hall

Does your training have a Champion? Is your training aligned with larger strategic objectives and goals? How is success going to be measured? In this video, Susan Hall and Tim Deuitch share 5 strategies to make sure that your senior leadership is committed to the success of your training initiatives.

Susan Hall: 00:01 Tim, in our collective, 40 plus years of consulting experience, I think we would both agree that the number one derailer and also critical success factors for most organizations training is whether or not they've engaged their senior leadership team.

Tim Deuitch: 00:24 Completely agree.

Susan Hall: 00:26 In my experience, there are three times to engage the executive team and that's before, during and after the training.

Tim Deuitch: 00:33 That does it.

Susan Hall: 00:34 Yes. Absolutely and so I'm wondering from your experience, can you give a tip or an example of how to engage executives prior to any kind of training?

Tim Deuitch: 00:44 So starting early, right at the beginning, what are the things that executives, or in my experience anyway I'll say, one of the things that executives sweat over is, "Is this training thing that you're talking about really going to matter?" Or, "Is this a good use of our dollars? We've done trainings many times." The engagement with the senior executives before has to have everything to do with learning from them, what the core business issues are and making sure that we are tying the training right to the success or the closure of business issues. When we can do that, the senior executives lean in and they start to ask the magical question, "How can we help make this work?"

Susan Hall: 01:30 Exactly. In fact, when I meet with executives prior to any kind of initiative, I don't even mention the word training. It's really all about what's critical to them, what are their priorities?

Tim Deuitch: 01:40 That's smart.

Susan Hall: 01:41 So that's important. I think another best practice is to engage an executive sponsor really early on in the process. This is someone who is respected in the organization, who sits on the executive team and really has something to either lose or gain from the success of the initiative.

Tim Deuitch: 01:59 That's the right profiling.

Susan Hall: 02:02 Yes, they've got some skin in the game and somebody who can open up doors for you and gain access to people that you might need to gain access to in order to make sure that it's successful. Then during the training, I found too that if you pick a midpoint during the rollout, say your plan is to roll out over a year's time, pick a point six months down the road, meet with the executive team again. This is an opportunity to check progress, to report back on efforts that are made and most importantly, results that you're seeing. Get their perspectives and also check in on the business goals and priorities to see if those have shifted.

Tim Deuitch: 02:39 And that gives us a chance to do a course correct if we need to and the best players to actually make a course correction are the senior leaders.

Susan Hall: 02:47 Exactly, and one of my clients, for example, when we had that midpoint meeting, we learned that they were about to embark on a pretty major rebranding and that was very useful information for us to know in terms of how to position and communicate to their team during the subsequent rollout. How about after training?

Tim Deuitch: 03:06 Well, after training it becomes the book end for the before. Which is to establish what we utilize as a business review meeting to have a very extensive comprehensive assessment. Check-in is too small a hyphenated word. It's an assessment of, "How are we doing against those business issues that we identified early on." Is this training, are the behaviors that come from the training, are these tying towards the closure or the success against those business issues? Is that happening?

Susan Hall: 03:42 Exactly, and I think we need to really emphasize too, Tim, that this is not just about reporting how many people have gone through the training, what the evaluations were, what regions where, that should take five minutes. This is a very well thought out, well planned meeting to engage the leaders in what kind of feedback are we getting? What kind of impact analysis are we doing to make sure that the needle has moved on those performance metrics? What customer feedback are we getting? What kind of success stories, anecdotally? All of this, as well as engaging the leaders in some particularly interactive exercises to get them involved on what the next steps are.

Tim Deuitch: 04:27 I especially like what you said about, "It's not counting the number of people trained." This isn't an assessment of the training process. This is an assessment of, "How are we doing against our objectives." So getting the hard data, measuring the performance of the teams themselves, and also getting that customer assessment. That's the juice that the senior executive leans in on.

Susan Hall: 04:51 Absolutely. To summarize some of our top tips for engaging senior leaders, number one, engage before, during, and after. Have an executive sponsor beforehand, make sure that you're identifying what are the problems that you're trying to solve with this training initiative. During have a midpoint check-in and also do some course correction if necessary, and plan your path moving forward. Finally, afterwards, measure results.

Published: July 30, 2020

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Susan Hall

Vice President - Business Development & Performance Improvement

Susan brings over 20 years of experience working with global markets and organizations, helping them navigate through tough economic challenges while maintaining their margins. Since joining SEG in 1995, she has had the privilege of working with organizations that truly value the development of their employees and recognize the impact their people have on their bottom line results. Susan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double major in business management and speech communication. She has also completed course work toward her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

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