Educational Guide: How to persuade reluctant managers to engage with management training?

Posted: 09/05/24

82% of UK managers have not received any formal management training and are considered ‘accidental managers’ by the CMI.

They’ve been promoted into their posts because they’re good at their job, they’ve been doing it the longest, and for retention, because it was the only step left on the progression ladder.

For HR professionals, this is a really worrying statistic. This is because doing the job and leading / managing people are two very different things.

And when we’re looking at employee retention, productivity and happiness we know a lot of issues boil down to poor management.

The Guardian reported that bad management had prompted one in three UK workers to quit their job.

It’s therefore our role as HR Consultants to highlight to our clients that their managers need training and developing.

Your first hurdle might be finding the budget for Management training. Next, you may need to tackle persuading reluctant managers to engage with management training properly.

Why are managers reluctant when it comes to their own management training?

Lack of awareness

The skillset you need to DO the job and lead people are two very different things. However, many managers are unaware that this is the case.

They simply don’t realise that managing people requires a completely different skill set. Why? Because no one has told them. No one has offered them training. They are unconsciously incompetent.

In order to address this, we need to raise their awareness of management mindset, skill set and styles – and get them to a point where they are consciously competent.


While ego can drive a lot of people, it can also prevent them from growing. Without growth they’re unlikely to perform at their best.

This is particularly true for managers who are confident that they are already well equipped and that there is nothing that can be taught that they don’t already know. But what are they measuring themselves against?

Time and a lack of resource

But the reality is also that our managers are too busy to invest the time into learning new ways, or the effort into practising new skills.

We know that many of our managers are player/managers and only have the opportunity to spend a proportion of their time on pure management activities, dismissing training for more urgent activities.

We also know that methods of management have changed, and continue to change, so staying current and up to date should be part of the management development journey.

How to persuade reluctant managers to engage with management training?

Step 1: Getting reluctant managers to engage with their own management training

Empowering our managers to perform to their potential, involves ensuring that they are taking an active interest in their own professional development and are reflective on their own management practices.

To do this managers may need a little help to understand what’s in it for them…

Aside from increased team productivity, a better culture and a reduced burden from attrition and onboarding, your hard working, loyal managers will experience the same benefits from development as any other member of your organisation:

  • They will have clarity of what is expected of them and be able to apply themselves in the areas that create the most organisational benefit.
  • Their value and purpose will be clearer which will, in turn, increase their motivation.
  • They will have a greater sense of worth from the sense that their personal development is being cared about and invested in.
  • They will open a door to career development opportunities through improved performance.
  • They will be trusted by their managers and, in turn, be more empowered to make good decisions.

Step 2: From unconscious incompetence to conscious competence

As HR professionals we can help you to gather some key metrics to support reflection by following some practical steps, including:

  • Surveying the team – how well is the manager performing for their people and where can they improve? Don’t make this covert, ensure the team have the manager‘s consent to be honest and share their thoughts openly. This will also help to develop a culture of feedback.
  • Sharing exit interview feedback to highlight areas of praise around strengths and development areas from points of dissatisfaction.
  • Benchmarking attrition levels and eNPS against similar companies in your sector.

Step 3: Learning needs analysis

You’ll want to create engagement in the development process and, therefore, work WITH your managers by engaging them in a skills assessment process and in the design of a training programme.

Once you have worked together to understand the areas for improvement:

  • Design a management upskilling plan. This plan should focus on areas identified by the above and be digestible. Ideally the content you create should be repeatable so they can revisit any aspect in the future for a refresh.
  • Use a range of different learning media and delivery methods to appeal to their preferred learning style.

Step 4: Designing the training and quick wins

You’ll be looking to address a range of management skills to empower your managers. We recommend that you start with the following positive management behaviours, so that managers feel the quickest benefits from those with the biggest impact:

Being accessible and available

Help your managers to understand their own impact, through being available and in regular contact with those being managed by them. Do your managers understand their own power and influence and, most importantly, what is expected of them? Role-modelling and resetting behaviours will have significant benefits to your culture. Being open and available to hear problems directly and immediately will help your organisation avoid becoming a toxic workplace.

Health and wellbeing

Your managers should genuinely care about their team members’ wellbeing and recognise how they can, and do, affect it. Understanding that different people have different needs is key to connecting your managers to their team. This isn’t something you can leave up to having common-sense; Gen Z need more from management than a well thought through checklist to follow and a quick return to work meeting when they have been off sick.


Understanding reward and recognition is more than a quick thank you. Your managers should be able to effectively show gratitude and praise good work in a fair and specific way. Your managers should also be able to provide constructive feedback confidently and competently as a trusted critical friend. This is how you drive high performance, which should be high on their list of responsibilities.

Provide individual consideration

Understanding the benefits of regular planning is crucial to leading the team. Learning how to structure effective 121s, personal development plans and everyday check-ins, will ensure that their team members have full confidence in their manager and, in turn, your business rituals.

Step 5: Provide time and space

Investing time in this project will pave the way for longer term benefits. Create time to ensure that your managers can focus on their learning and space to practice their new skills.

Step 6: Celebrate

  • Benchmark against previous metrics to understand the positive outcomes of your programme.
  • Celebrate and praise management development publicly. Your employer brand will benefit too.
  • You may well find yourself in a great place to apply for an employer engagement accreditation from a recognised body like Investors in People, Best Companies or as a Great Place to Work, which will help you to attract even more great talent.

Once you’ve completed this process, you will have a newly equipped, empowered and valued management team who are skilled and effective managers, able to retain, engage and drive your organisation.


Engage with managers to help them to understand the benefits that management training brings. Making the time for development will ultimately pay for itself through improved organisational performance.

Categories: Articles