Is Your Leadership Training “Top Heavy”?

If you suddenly had a windfall budget where you could invest an extra million dollars in leadership training, on which people would you focus that training? Would you spend money training the senior leadership—those individuals already at the top of your organization? Or would you spend the money on the high potential employees who might lead in the future?

If you mentioned anyone other than senior leadership, you’re in the minority. A recent study by the Brandon Hall Group found, among other things, that over a third of companies spend more than $2000 per person for leadership training at the senior leadership level, and 69% spend at least $1000. But when we look at individuals, supervisors, and middle management, more than half of the companies polled spent less than $500 per individual.

Leadership Training Budgets - ej4

So what do these numbers mean?

In some ways, these results are not surprising. There is often an “economy of scale” at play when training is done in-person or on-site. Think about it: if a trainer comes out to lecture a classroom of employees, they will often charge the same fee whether there are 7 VPs in the audience or 70 mid-level managers. Which means the cost per person for the mid-level managers is lower.

But economies of scale cannot be the whole story. Across all segments the study looked at, there were companies at both the high end and the low end of the spending scale. And there were a significant number of companies investing in their high potential employees.

This says to us that companies are choosing to spend their leadership training dollars on the senior management. They are assuming that money spent on senior leadership will give them the most leverage.

How to really leverage your leadership training dollars

Is that right, though? Do organizations get the most “bang for their buck” by spending leadership training dollars on senior management?

The answer to that question is different for each organization. The best way to answer it for your organization is by conducting a needs analysis to see what training would be most effective, and where.

That said, keep the following in mind:

  • Leadership training isn’t just about giving your current leaders skills. It’s about giving the next generation of leaders the right skills before they need them.
  • Leadership training for future leaders sends the signal that you value their contribution, and that there is room for them in your organization to grow and advance.
  • Even if you train employees that don’t go on to become leaders, what they learn will still help boost their productivity and morale.
  • Leadership training needs to be an investment, yes… but you can keep costs down by finding alternative delivery methods. Online training, video training, mobile apps, and other technologies can drive results without expensive instructors or off-site trainings.

Leveraging your leadership training dollars doesn’t mean training a select few decision makers. It’s a matter of finding the most efficient delivery methods so that everyone can get the training they need to reach their potential.

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