Ultimately, I think that it depends on the situation, so let us look at the factors that can contribute to helping make the decision, and that should help you be able to make the judgement call each time.
Let us first look at the arguments AGAINST managers joining their staff.
The primary reason given for this is that if a manager attends with staff below them, people can feel inhibited, do not open up as much as possible, and therefore do not get the most out of the training. While this is a valid argument, particularly if a specific person is being put on a course because of a performance failure issue, it is not always the case. If an entire team is receiving training together as a group, an experienced trainer will get everybody contributing, and part of what makes a good trainer is that they will draw all delegates into participating.
Another reason for managers not wanting to join their staff is that some feel that if they have inadequacies in a particular area, they could be highlighted in front of all the staff. Again, this is a valid point. If private training is arranged though, arrangements can always be made that the manager attends, but does not participate, with the team members being told that the training is aimed at improving their skills, and that is why the trainer is focusing on them and not the manager. That way the manager can feel secure that they are not going to be put on the spot in front of their staff.
A third reason is that if the manager does not actually need the training, why incur an extra cost? Again, a valid point. However, the way that most training is priced by most training companies, the manager attending along with a big group should not see a significant difference in price, possibly a small one. That small amount is well worth it when we look at the pros of managers attending with their staff.
A final point is that for some subjects, is it even needed? Quite correct, if a staff member of yours needs Excel training, do you need to join them? No.
Now let us look at the arguments FOR managers joining their staff.
Many companies arrange training in groups. Sometimes the people are from multiple departments, but in many cases, it is for a specific department for a specific reason. If it is what is referred to as a business skill, or a soft skill, the single most important aspect is that the training is put into practice after the training has occurred. And the best way for that to happen is to keep doing follow up work after training.
Whether this is performed by the training company brought in or by the manager of the team, it will always benefit to have follow up work done after the training. In this case, it will assist the manager if they actually know what material was covered in the training. That way, they can reinforce things, ask people how they are doing with trying new approaches.
A good example of this could be sales training that is run for an entire team of sales people. One of the sections covered could have been handling objections. Following that training, should a manager hear one of their staff not handling an objection well, they could say something like, “Remember how that was covered in the training? Why not try saying this….?” If the manager was not involved in the training, would they know what they could build on?
So, as stated right at the beginning, different situations will allow for different practices. But, if at all possible, if it is for group business skills training, I think that is a good time for a manager to get involved. Should you want any guidance as you plan training, and are uncertain about who all to include, feel free to give Activia call for some pertinent advice.
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