A new approach to Corporate Training for Managers
In my last article, I talked about the advantages of self-directed learning for developing leadership skills. But I also mentioned that there are some cases where team learning is more appropriate for employee development. In this article, I will explain more about the pros and cons of group training for managers. And I will then introduce the concept of blended learning approach for corporate training– which provides a balance of both group work and self-directed learning. I will explain how this blended approach provides not only great learning outcomes, but also team building within your organization.
Pros and Cons of Team Learning for Corporate Training
First, consider that there different “learning styles”. Some people are more responsive to listening, others visual and some tactical. But in many cases, adults learn complex skills best when they discuss with their peers. This allows participants to view issues from different perspectives, and to leverage the lessons learned through experience from the peers. It allows participants to dig deeper into complex issues, and work together on solutions.
Team learning could take many forms. Your employees could sign up for a course delivered at an institution, where they will be with others from different organizations. Or many organizations have implemented corporate training programs, whereby they put on customized management workshops and courses for their own employees.
When executed effectively, this group learning approach to corporate training actively promotes management team building. As managers work together on complex problems, they get to learn more about each other. They develop more understanding and trust, and learn to communicate and collaborate effectively. This can have long lasting benefits in the work place.
However, there are many challenges with setting up an environment where this kind of learning works effectively:
- Differing levels of skills and experience
- Hierarchy, power and dominance
- Fear of appearing unskilled in front of peers
If not managed effectively, there is the potential for long lasting conflict rather than team building. And frequently, discussions can go off on tangents and thus reduce the learning outcomes. It takes a highly skilled facilitator to manage the environment and participants to achieve both positive team building AND learning outcomes.
Additionally, the approach of “face-to-face” learning can have disadvantages for corporate training in terms of time and travel. This is especially challenging in distributed organizations, where some must travel distances to attend the training. It requires participants to take significant chunks of time out of their schedules.
Advantage of Blended Learning for Corporate Training
What if you could have the best parts of both self-directed and group learning? This is the concept of blended learning. Blended learning is a very broad term that has different definitions and interpretations. But it generally incorporates a significant portion which is delivered online through a variety of methods.
But can online, blended training be as effective as traditional classroom training? In their meta-analysis The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature authors Means, Toyama, Murphy and Baki state their results as:
“The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The advantage over face-to-face classes was significant in those studies contrasting blended learning with traditional face-to-face instruction but not in those studies contrasting purely online with face-to-face conditions.”
The blended (of facilitated) approach to learning effectively combines several learning methods:
- It allows individual participants to work through the content at their own pace. This helps to overcome the problem of different skill levels
- By incorporating several types of material and delivery methods, it supports different learning styles. For example, we can include both individual exercises and reflections, as well as group discussions.
- A skilled facilitator helps the group with team building and team learning, and levels the playing field to ensure equal participation
- The facilitator designs meaningful group work, encourages participation and openness to different perspectives
Example of a blended Management course
There are different approaches to blended learning. While some include some “face-to-face” components, my courses are all designed to support organizations that have people in different locations and/or with different schedules. Therefore, all course work, including discussions, is done in an online environment. I have selected tools that are very easy to use to minimize technological barriers.
For corporate training, I guide small groups (6 to 8 participants) through one of my strategic management courses over the course of 6 to 8 weeks. Each participant gets full access to the self-directed course, which I explained in my previous article. But unlike self-directed where they progress at their own pace, I guide participants through the material based on a pre-set schedule. This ensures that all participants are at the same stage when it comes to group discussion.
One of the most important roles for me as a facilitator is to help the team members to get to know each other and develop a level of comfort before engaging in group discussions. I have designed specific topics of discussion, and will encourage participation. But my goal is really to get the participants working with and learning from each other. This is where the deep learning and team building comes in.
How do participants interact in an online environment?
As a facilitator, I actively engage participants to get to know each other and feel comfortable in discussions. Online facilitation is a very specialized skill which I have been trained in and doing for the past 3 years. One of my favourite tools is Slack – which allows for asynchronous, text based discussions. This removes any barriers of schedules, as participants can add their comments to the discussion at any time. Some of my discussions will start out with relationship development, such as “share something about yourself”, and work up to more challenging conversations where participants will have different opinions.
Get started with Corporate Training for Managers
The Strategic Manager Learning System provides a highly effective platform for developing management skills. And an experienced facilitator keeps your employees on track and supports the team building aspect. Visit our website to learn more about our strategic management courses and facilitated (blended) learning approach for team learning. And contact us to discuss your specific needs. We can then design an approach that works best for your manager training and team building needs.
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