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7 Steps to Build a Middle Management Training Program

The role and importance of middle managers should not be underestimated. 

They interpret and disseminate the organization’s strategic visions into actions. They also nurture the talent below them. 

But their success largely depends on the training they receive.

Many businesses need to revamp their training programs for middle managers. A survey by McKinsey & Company found that only 20 percent of participants strongly agreed that their organizations helped them to be successful People managers. 

It’s important to recognize the value of investing in middle management. Empowering leaders with skills and knowledge is essential for business and propels individuals and the organization toward success. 

What are middle management training programs?

These structured initiatives are designed with purpose. They equip mid-level leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfill their roles effectively.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all program. Training must be tailored to the industry, role, and–most importantly–the individual. 

By providing targeted training, organizations improve team performance and drive success for all. 

Here are some examples of hard and soft skill development included in middle management training programs:

  1. Conflict management and relationship building
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Communication skills
  4. Prioritization
  5. Problem-solving skills
  6. Accountability
  7. Being tactical and developing emotional intelligence
  8. Time management skills 
  9. Creative thinking and encouraging innovation
  10. Presence and credibility
  11. Delegation skills
  12. Inclusivity and empathy

Read more: 33 Examples of Employee Strengths and Weaknesses + How to Improve Them

How to build a middle management training program

When organizations seek to train their middle managers, they need to be strategic. After all, effective leadership is crucial for business success

Building a middle management training program requires careful planning, and there are several factors to consider before launch. 

Conduct needs assessment

Before any training program is designed, a comprehensive needs assessment should be conducted. This will help identify the organization’s specific needs and challenges and uncover existing middle managers’ skills gaps and developmental needs. 

Several elements may be involved in this needs assessment, including performance evaluations, surveys, focus groups, and interviews. It’s important to involve middle managers, their team members, and their supervisors. This way, you can get an overarching image and insights into the current needs.

Read more: What is Leadership Development and Why is it Important?

Clearly outline the program objectives 

After completing the needs assessment, there should be clear areas that need addressing. These findings should form the basis of the training program objectives. These should be specific and based on the developmental needs of middle managers.  

A helpful method for outlining goals is to follow the SMART framework: in other words, goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

Here are two examples of SMART training program objectives for middle leaders:

  • Enhancing leadership skills. Develop middle managers’ abilities in coaching, conflict resolution, and team motivation. Provide focused training workshops that result in an increase in team satisfaction scores by 10% within six months.
  • Team building and collaboration. Develop team-building skills through collaborative projects. Increase team cohesion scores by 15% based on employee surveys.

Develop a comprehensive curriculum

With your objectives clearly defined, you can now plan your training program.

This program should be comprehensive and sequential and address individuals’ specific needs. By combining theory, practical skills, case studies, and interactive elements, you can ensure a comprehensive learning experience that caters to all. 

The training content should be in a logical sequence. It should build upon foundational concepts and existing knowledge, understanding, and skills. As individuals progress through the program, the content should increase in complexity. 

This ensures trainees understand the basics before they tackle more nuanced ideas. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge existing skills and knowledge and encourage participants to draw on them. 

Use various learning methods

To create a dynamic and engaging program, you need to incorporate a range of different learning methods. This ensures you cater to your participants’ diverse needs and preferences. 

Incorporating a mix of learning approaches means individuals will retain more knowledge and be able to apply their newly acquired skills in their roles. 

Your program should use a blended learning approach and include some of the following:

  • Classroom-based learning
  • Online learning
  • Workshops or seminars
  • Role-playing exercises 
  • Peer and collaborative learning 
  • On-the-job training 

You should use real-world examples or case studies depending on your industry or sector. This shows participants how theory and concepts work in practice, helping individuals see how their learning applies to their roles and work situations. Essentially, the training becomes relevant and memorable to them. 

Modern tools like workplace optimization software can enhance the learning process. This is because they facilitate seamless communication, collaboration, and performance tracking–all tools that can be used throughout the various aspects of the program.

Include real-world scenarios

Real scenarios and case studies provide participants with tangible information they can apply in their work. This prepares them to navigate their roles effectively. This type of learning experience bridges the gap between theory and practice. Participants develop critical thinking skills and become better adept at problem-solving and decision-making. 

This practice might involve role-playing exercises or real-world projects. These allow participants to test their knowledge in a more hands-on fashion. They’ll also be able to receive feedback from their instructors and peers. 

Ensure qualified trainers or facilitators

The competency of trainers and facilitators matters.

An effective trainer can deliver content that keeps participants engaged. They will also ensure the learning environment is a supportive one. 

They should:

  • Be an expert in middle management concepts, including leadership, communication, performance management, and managing change 
  • Have relevant industry experience. This means they can provide authentic and real-world insight into the training 
  • Have strong interpersonal skills
  • Be able to adapt and be flexible in their approach 
  • Be up-to-date with all of the technology that their trainees use day-to-day, like business phone systems 

Implement continuous feedback

Continuous feedback mechanisms optimize the effectiveness of middle management training programs. Feedback from participants, trainers, and stakeholders is crucial throughout the program, helping to identify emerging needs and areas for improvement. 

Effective methods could include these aspects:

  • Established feedback channels. Surveys, focus groups, discussions, and suggestion boxes. Providing mechanisms for anonymous feedback is also a good idea; you’re more likely to get a true picture
  • Regular feedback opportunities. Feedback is gathered at various points in the training program 
  • Diverse feedback methods. Quantitative and qualitative 
  • Responses to feedback. Communication about received feedback and addressing it

Metrics in measuring training effectiveness

Evaluating your training is the only way to know if it’s effective. This should be planned from the start when setting out your objectives. 

By tracking key metrics, you can ensure a positive impact and return on investment. 

Here are the key metrics to consider. 

Employee performance improvement

Ultimately, middle management training programs should contribute to productivity and performance. 

Key metrics that measure this are:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Track changes in sales revenue, productivity metrics, and quality standards. Do this before and after training 
  • Performance Reviews. Check both individual and team performance regularly 
  • Feedback. Gather feedback from peers and supervisors. Use this to assess aspects covered in the training program

Leadership competency development

The primary goal of middle management training programs is to develop leadership skills. As such, competencies should be evaluated. 

This should include communication, decision-making, team management, and strategic thinking. It should come from pre- and post-training leadership assessments and surveys. 

Employee engagement and satisfaction

Robust and effective training should result in higher levels of engagement and satisfaction. 

Metrics to measure this include employee engagement surveys and feedback. Surveys can assess levels of job satisfaction and motivation. Feedback can also gauge perceptions of the program’s impact.

Retention rates and succession planning

Effective training programs should help organizations retain top talent and prepare them for succession. Organizations can compare the retention rates of those who complete the training program against those who don’t. 

Businesses should also consider offering the training program to high-potential employees. This will mean they’re ready to assume leadership roles when they become available. You can also see how effective the training program is by monitoring internal promotions.

Read more: 6 Proven Methods to Measure the Impact of Your Training

Set middle managers up for success

Middle managers have an important role: they’re the link between strategic vision and operational execution.

Successful training can significantly impact their performance. Training programs for middle managers (or those with high potential to become one) should be designed purposefully. 

These programs should be tailored to address industry-specific challenges. They should also address the developmental needs of the participants themselves. Investing in middle management training is an investment in the organization itself–and feedback should show its effectiveness and impact. 

Discover how the Learning Cloud can help you create engaging training programs to upskill your teams and develop inspirational leaders. Contact us for a free, personalized demo.


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Jenna Bunnell

WorkRamp Contributor

Jenna Bunnell is the Director for Field and Strategic Events at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways.

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