A Top-Down Approach To Learning And Development

A Top-Down Approach To Learning And Development
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Summary: When you run your training program like a business, everyone benefits. Here's why you want to get your leaders involved in your Learning and Development from the start.

Approaching Learning And Development Top-Down

Mangementhelp.org states that “as a supervisor, you can make a very positive impression during the orientation, including how you value the employee's training and development”[1]. Orientation, however, is only the first step towards a top-down approach to Learning and Development. In this article, we’ll discuss the role of managers in Learning and Development, how to run your training program like a business, and what benefits you can expect to see as a result.

Involving Managers In Learning And Development

An article on ChiefLearningOfficer.com tells a story about an employee who attended a training conference [2]. During the conference, Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff, a researcher known for his study of learning evaluation, gave a presentation about three different types of learners that attend conferences. Learner 1, he said, goes to training events because they're told to. Learner 2 goes because they love going to these types of events and will go any chance they get. Learner 3 attends “when needed”. They are “prepped by the manager about expectations… [and come] with a realistic and specific focus for what needs to be learned and how it should be applied.”

Obviously, Learner 3 is in the ideal position to learn what they need to learn in order to perform the best they can at their organization. However, when the researcher asked to see who had been prepared to learn like Learner 3, only 20% in attendance had their hands raised. The point of the story is clear: “to have a lasting effect on employees, learning programs must receive buy-in and support from an organization’s managers.”

The article continues by explaining that 52% of employees don’t even apply what they learn from training because they didn’t “have [the] opportunity” to do so and 16% said they felt other things were more important. Again, there is a discernable disconnect, a gap, between what employees are learning in their training, and what managers are expecting (or not expecting) from their employees.

Managers can close this gap by becoming more involved in their employees’ training and by taking a top-down approach to Learning and Development.

In the same article, ChiefLearningOfficer.com quotes the old adage “you only manage what you measure”, and they have a point. If managers want to become more involved in their employees’ training, measuring is the first step. And to measure correctly, you have to ask the right questions. They suggest asking the following:

  1. What percent of learning actually was applied to the job?
  2. When did the learner apply the learning (e.g., time-to-job impact)?
  3. What are the major barriers to applying the learning on the job?
  4. Did you set expectations with your manager before the learning event?
  5. Were you provided adequate resources to optimally apply the learning?
  6. Did you determine specific uses for the training after it took place?

Treating Learning Like A Business

In another article by ChiefLearningOfficer.com, David Vance reminds readers that “corporate learning is a $200 billion per year business, and [that] it should be run like one [3]”. Training your employees isn’t cheap. But, it can be extremely valuable, if handled correctly.

Vance suggests that, in order to run your training as a successful business, managers should do the following:

  • Have a mission statement.
  • Align Learning and Development with business goals.
  • Develop a reason for learning that supports your business.
  • Create a measurement/evaluation strategy.
  • Write a business plan for their training program.
  • Work towards specific goals.

Treating your training and Learning and Development programs the same way you treat other aspects of your business not only allows you to focus on teaching what’s most important but to see a Return On your Investments.

Benefits For Employees And Managers

As you may be starting to see, the training process can have large benefits for your business, if managers are intimately involved. Nikos Andriotis, at eLearningIndustry, lists many of the benefits that employees and managers can expect when a training program isn’t “run on auto-pilot”.

For employees, Nikos says, “training becomes a priority”. They get to see a larger vision of their companies goals, the way they learn becomes more dynamic, they have access to mentors, and their training becomes an overall more positive experience. Managers get the opportunity to see more clearly into their employees work ethics and skillsets. They get to “improve their coaching skills” and become educated throughout the process.

Time For Action

Learning and Development, if handled correctly, can greatly benefit not only your business but the managers and employees involved in the training process. By taking a top-down approach to training, you can expect to see a return on your investment, help your employees become more prepared for their duties, and teach your managers to become better leaders. If you need help learning how to involve your managers more fully in your training programs, companies like AllenComm offer training and consulting services you may find useful. Now take what you’ve learned about a top-down approach to Learning and Development, and start seeing those results.


[1] Role of Management in Learning and Development

[2] The Manager’s Responsibility for Employee Learning

[3] Running Learning Like a Business

eBook Release: AllenComm
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