Lower academic level of first line management training. This piece was originally published:
Industrial and Commercial Training. Volume 30 • Number 1 • 1998 • pp. 20-23 MCB University Press • ISSN 0019-7858
I have re-published this as the topic of academic levels in different qualifications has been discussed recently. This article shows the value of doing things differently to the academic convention of starting at your level.
The company HDL is no longer trading as a training provider. At the time it was the distance learning arm of Henley Management College
Abstract – Lower academic level of first line management training
A supervisory management [Team Leader] programme addressing both the strategic and operational needs of modern healthcare providers has recently been piloted in a private-sector hospital. The one-year programme combining self-study, trainer-led workshops and the workplace application of learning took the innovative approach of setting the training at one academic level below the perceived need. Healthcare sector experience had indicated that well qualified technical staff making the transition to management were automatically expected to have effective management skills in line with their technical competences and this does not always hold true in practice, something which is common in many industries. Setting the necessary supporting management training at the lower academic level was intended to focus learning energy into both understanding and application of learning for workplace results, rather than to promote static assimilation of high-level management concepts. It is proposed that such bespoke supervisory management programmes in association with professional training providers, in this case Henley Training and Development Ltd (HDL), deliver better work-based performance than that gained by encouraging individuals to take tw0-year, college-based Diploma in Management Study.
With many changes currently taking place in both the private and public healthcare sectors, a great number of organisations are experiencing a general need to “up-skill” staff trained in many specialist disciplines, such as nursing and finance, but who have received minimal exposure to management training. In medium and large-sized organisations this need is often better addressed by structured management development programmes which can, if a developmental planning approach is taken, also provide a vehicle to communicate and implement new ideas and culture change throughout the organisation.
At a private London hospital a Supervisory Management Programme was recently piloted by Mike Morrison to address exactly these kinds of needs. However, to ensure the programme led to action for workplace improvements, culture change and personal effectiveness, the programme was deliberately set one level below the academic standard of participants. The pilot programme was built around HDL’s Tomorrow’s Manager Programme and, in addition to meeting the corporate objectives below, was designed to take into account departmental needs and skill gaps identified by internal research and individual needs analysis.
- to provide first line management staff with a formal education and development programme to enable them to be more effective and efficient in their healthcare roles;
- to provide an opportunity to explore new ways of working;
- to provide the resources and support for individuals to develop their own effective management styles and skills;
- to develop personal objectives in association with line managers.
Training [& Education] at a lower academic level for success
A fundamental driver in the pilot-programme development was a determination to ensure the transfer of learning to both the workplace and the job tasks of each participant. This meant making it as easy as possible for staff to participate in the programme and give their full commitment. Too often highly trained staff are drawn to, or offered, courses set at their own academic level or above, a potential mistake for the workplace application of new complementary skills. A few years on from early career training, with family responsibilities and job demands, few individuals find a return to learning easy, particularly learning which involves self study. Programmes targeted one level below the individuals’ academic ability are more likely to facilitate commitment and the application of learning when provided with the appropriate support mechanisms.
In practice the pilot programme demonstrated that free from the struggle of grasping higher-level concepts and even studying late at the expense of a family or social life, the focus of learning at the lower level became the steady assimilation and workplace application of enhanced skills. In the longer term, an additional benefit emerged as many of those who had not studied for some time learned to introduce further study into their work and personal schedules in a manageable way. Therefore on programme completion they began to plan and seek out future training and personal development opportunities.
Setting the pilot programme at a lower academic level facilitated participants in their workplace application of learning, but equally important in that facilitation was the overall programme structure and content. The key elements were:
- the underpinning knowledge provided by the HDL distance learning materials;
- additional training in accelerated learning techniques, Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques (NLP) for communication skills and coaching, computer skills, presentation skills, etc.;
- monthly workshops providing new inputs and supporting the topic module as well as enabling the sets to discuss current issues within and outside of the programme;
- fortnightly “action learning set” meetings of a multi-disciplinary participant peer group; session by session goal setting between participants and line managers;
- session by session learning logs [Blogs].
Back to basics – changing behaviour and making it stick
Through the workshops, simplistic” management models were explored. Models including the one-minute manager, situational leadership and mind maps were used to communicate behavioural changes. These models were familiar to many delegates and this allowed previous learning to be built upon. Practice, practice, practice, coaching and feedback was then used to reinforce and ensure application and change to the workplace environment.
These types of models were chosen because they are simple to understand, have strong face value and cannot be seen as “fads”. They also provide excellent results when given the required resources.
The pilot programme was an internal training opportunity and had the potential to be less attractive to participants than college-based studies, even though an externally recognised certificate of the Henley Management College would be attained. However the key point promoted to staff was that the learning would be longer-term competency based and would enhance their career through identifiable work performance, improvements and achievements. At the end of the pilot programme participants were able to ascribe to this view with more than 80 per cent expected to apply for the next level of the internal management development programme.
Figure 1 (qualification programme) shows how the pilot programme has been the first step towards a corporate structure for internal management development to the highest level.
It was a strategy which allows individuals to develop to MBA in just five years. Each step provides a foundation of management skills and competences in both an academic and a business environment.
Staff self-selection for the pilot and any further training programmes was also an important issue to ensure motivation, facilitate the discussion of aspirations with line managers and to help individuals map out where they wanted to go inside — or outside of the organisation and what they wanted to achieve. In the pilot programme a self-selection process was initiated by a simple advertising letter to groups of staff to whom the course may be of benefit. It encouraged them to talk to their line manager about the possibility of participating in the programme. They were also invited to view the programme materials and talk with the programme tutor.
The programme structure described above also provides the answer as to how the pilot delivered change management. Multi-disciplinary action learning sets comprising of nursing, financial and paramedical staff and a range of experiences were able to strengthen the existing bridges between the hospital’s diverse healthcare and business functions. The peer group created in the sets also effectively included levels of functional management close to the new strategic direction of the organisation that were able to act as role models for change.
Networking benefits were effectively taken back to the workplace by each participant, effectively extending the discussion of strategy and the drivers for change to a wider hospital staff audience. In addition, the pilot action sets had also covered a wider awareness of market and management issues by allocating workshop time for the discussion of material which participants highlight in both the sector press and the media in general. Again this was highly beneficial when participants informally shared information with their non-participating colleagues.
Line management support
Line management support is crucial if such change management is to be embedded into the organisation through staff development programmes. It is also vital if the major operational benefits that are prime justification for management development schemes are to be reaped by the organisation. The pilot programme approach adopted at the hospital highlighted some of the potential difficulties with line management, as participants’ workplace tasks derived from action sets were achieved with varying degrees of success.
Essentially, outstanding programme achievement for the organisation is dependent on all parties — trainers, participants and line management — taking ownership. One potential way to address inconsistent line management support for such programmes might in the future be to use job descriptions and performance-related pay to promote responsibility for staff development (hence better business performance).
Typically a combined self-study and workshop-supported learning programme such as the pilot might invoice at about £400 per person. However, the real cost is far higher, particularly when up to 30 days of staff time in a one-year programme can be taken up by activities such as workshops, workplace projects, and personal progress meetings. Part of the inception process of any new development programme should therefore consider evaluation methods. In the pilot programme the following measures of success were used: before and after each module and workshop participants set objectives and discussed and recorded outcomes and opportunities to use the new ideas and skills; promotion performance of participants post programme (50 per cent promoted after pilot);
- trainer, delegate and manager feedback against key skill areas such as presentation skills, business awareness and networking; profiling of participants before, during and post programme using a range of instruments;
- head office acceptance of the programme for further implementation across the group;
- benchmarking corporate culture change (see Table 1).
Recognition at all levels is important for staff to sustain additional study and to be motivated to apply learning at work. With line management and trainer support, along with peer groups which help build strong inter-departmental communication links, the pilot programme addressed a wide range of individual needs. However externally recognised certificates and a presentation evening was deliberately included in the programme to provide a mark of achievement both for participants and the friends and family who had seen the effort, and sometimes shared the sacrifices, which brought the success. In March 1997 Henley Certificates in Supervisory Management were presented to staff who successfully completed the pilot programme.
The pilot programme, set at the lower academic level, has clearly enabled technical staff not familiar with management techniques or methods of learning to get to grips with the basics of the subject. The result has had the
Table 1 Culture index: diagnosing organisational culture
Source: The desired figures are based on a senior management survey and adapted from the business plan. The pre- and post-group survey results are based on delegates of the programme, not the whole management group most profound impact and success back in the workplace.
For a programme of this sort to be a success, the delegates needed to have a firm foundation of quality, continuous improvement and customer care as a basis upon which they can build. For the a pilot programme, the hospital was able to provide these three key principles, creating the right kind of favourable environment for the delegates to work and study in.
In addition, the pilot programme was evaluated from a cultural perspective and formed part of a larger process change (see Table I) taking place within the hospital.
An analysis of organisational culture was carried out prior to the programme at varying levels as a bench mark. The process was repeated after the pilot programme had taken place. Just how successful the pilot programme has been in encouraging culture change in the organisation can be assessed by these typically positive delegate comments:
- “Each time I look through the modules I realise just how much I’ve learned.”
- “The networking from the programme has helped me enormously.”
- “It’s great having someone to talk to — from other departments or parts of the business to bounce ideas off.”
Overall, the pilot programme is adjudged by the hospital to have been a success. Not only has it achieved its set objectives in the context of the hospital’s corporate culture, but it has also brought individual delegates personal growth with over half of them achieving promotion since completing the programme.
Since the initial programme, two more have been run and two more at higher levels are being planned. Five other hospitals from the group to which my hospital belongs are now using the programme.
This article was written and published in 1998. In the nearly 20 years since, many other professions continue to encourage professionals to start their academic training at the academic level they are at. For example people that have not studies for many years are encouraged to start at level 3. More mature people at level 5 and senior people at level 7. Whilst they may be able to cope at the academic “level” of these, the reality of course is very different. For it is not just about academic level, but content. level 3 is more basic, or operational. Often level 5 is more manager based and level 7 (master level) is strategic content and direction.
It’s like building a house. You need foundations, walls and then roof. Think of level 3= foundations
Level 5= walls
Level 7= roof
Having a roof without walls is of little value.
Whilst a graduate may be able to cope with level 5 or 7, if they are missing the building blocks of the lower levels, they will know some theory, but lack the foundations upon which to build.
Why it is considered an insult for a masters level person to go back to basics in a new profession is beyond me. If you are a degree level accountant, it does not mean you are a degree level HR or manager. they are different professions! Start at the basics.
Whilst this original article was originally based on experiences in the healthcare sector, it is equally valid for the development of managers and professionals in HR, Finance, creative media, professional services, engineering, academia, education etc.
Whilst not included in the text, it can be clearly seen that the programme followed what we now call 70:20:10 where much learning took place “on the job” and the time out was minimal and allowed participants to consolidate learning with peers.
I hope that the case study above inspire many to think differently about how they develop managers of the future, along with other relevant professionals.