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6 steps to create a management development program that works

September 2, 2021 - 17 min read


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What is management development?

Why is a program for management development important?

What are the benefits of management training programs?

What are the common challenges of starting a management development program?

What should a management development program cover?

How to start a management development program

Start a management development program and grow your leadership force

People need to be nurtured and developed to become effective and productive leaders in their organizations.

A management development program is a powerful tool to develop leaders in your organization. Let’s take a look at why and how you can start your own program.

What is management development?

Management development is a process in which companies develop leaders and managers. This process is usually systematic and rigorous.

Management development is also typically done with existing employees. 

Programs that develop managers help close skills gaps at an organizational level. But they also help to close that gap on a personal level for new and up-and-coming managers.

When employees distinguish themselves in a company, they become candidates for management positions. But simply promoting these candidates without further training can lead to several issues.

For instance, it creates a lack of consistency in managers and management styles across an organization

Management development helps upskill these candidates. And, it also establishes consistency for how management is done.

How a management development program is different from an executive training program

Executive training programs are designed for employees in the highest tier of an organization.

Management development programs help groom entry-level managers and people in middle management.

Why is a program for management development important?

Management development programs are important for several reasons. 

According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, leadership and management are priorities for learning and development (L&D) professionals.

53% of L&D pros said they were their top priorities, which isn’t far behind upskilling and reskilling at 59%. 

According to this same report, 51% of L&D pros say that internal mobility is more of a priority since the onset of COVID-19 than before.


When you develop leaders within your own organization, you can have more mobility than if you rely on outside hires. Plus, employees who work at a company with internal mobility stay nearly twice as long as those who work at low internal mobility companies.

Investing in upskilling and leadership development is one of the best ways to improve your existing assets and grow your business.

Management skills don’t appear on their own. These crucial leadership qualities need to be nurtured in employees who have potential.

And when you develop existing employees to their highest potential instead of outside hires, they already have inner knowledge of your organization. They already understand the organization they will soon lead.

What are the benefits of management training programs? 

Implementing a management development program has several benefits for an organization. Here are four reasons your company should invest in creating a management development program:

1. Increase your human capital

Human capital is the sum of the knowledge, intelligence, and experiences of your workforce. One of the best ways to increase human capital is by educating and training your employees.

Increase your human capital Alt title: woman-smiling-while-using-tablet-management-development-program

A management development program is a great way to close the skills gap that is stopping your best employees from achieving their full potential.

2. Create a culture of innovation

Innovation can give your company a competitive advantage. This is especially true in a saturated market.

A culture of innovation can make it easier to find creative solutions to challenging problems.

Because of this, innovation can:

  • Help your company cut costs
  • Improve productivity and efficiency
  • Develop new features for products and services that competitors don’t have

The more an employee has lived through a variety of experiences, the more they’ll be able to innovate.

Management development is a great way to provide them with some of these experiences. It opens up the door for them to explore new perspectives.

3. Increase employee retention

Employee turnover is expensive for companies. Work Institute states that employee turnover costs about 30% of an employee’s annual salary.

Since the median wage of an employee in the US is $48,672, the median cost of employee turnover is about $15,000.

Work Institute also states that 37.9% of employees leave their job after less than a year. 

But it’s possible to increase employee retention. As LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report stated, employees stay longer at companies that hire from within.

However, to hire from within, you need to develop your managers and leaders first. It’s an investment, but this should pay off in the long run when your best talent sticks around.

4. Improve succession planning

The current managers in your organization won’t be there forever. Whether they move up in the ranks, retire, or decide to work elsewhere, their positions will need to be filled eventually.

When you have a management development program already in place, it’s easier to plan for the succession of these positions. You can spot trainees with the most potential and prepare them to take on more responsibility before the time comes.

What are the common challenges of starting a management development program? 

Starting a management development program doesn’t happen on its own. Here are four challenges to watch out for:

1. Helping candidates shift from employee to manager

Employees who get promoted to management and leadership positions often end up in these positions because of their competencies in their previous role. However, management requires an important shift in working styles.

It can be difficult to coach employees through this shift. But even if it’s difficult, it’s a crucial part of management development. New manager training is critical from day one to help in this transition. 

2. Finding the right training resources

Organizations have existing managers and leaders to help up-and-coming managers learn. But an effective manager and a talented educator aren’t the same thing.

As a result, finding the necessary training resources to start a management development program can be a challenge. There are plenty of training resources, from synchronous to asynchronous learning methods. And depending on your management goals, some options are better than others. 

Fortunately, it’s possible to bring in outside resources to coach potential leaders and help them develop to their full potential.


3. Measuring the success of a program

You can implement a management training program. But to make sure it’s effective and to keep improving it, you need to measure its success.

Doing so can be challenging. That’s because leadership and management skills are highly subjective.

Using tools like self-reports and manager evaluations can help. It is especially important to establish a baseline for employee performance before they participate in manager training.

4. Making new managers resourceful

One of the challenges of becoming a new manager is to generate the best possible output with available resources. 

It’s important to instill resourcefulness in new managers. This is so that they can learn how to get results with what they have.

But this isn’t something that’s easy to teach. Experience is often a better teacher for such skills.

Even so, this is a challenge that the management development program in your organization should attempt to overcome.

What should a management development program cover? 

There’s a lot of ground to cover in a management development program. Here are four crucial topics every program should include:

1. Knowledge about the organization

Your new leaders and managers may already know some information about your organization. But they should get some deeper insight into how it works.

This can include:

  • Company mission, company vision, and company core values
  • Economic cycles
  • How revenues, expenses, and profits work
  • Short-term and long-term business plans
  • Code of ethics
  • Accounting and finance
  • Marketing and sales


2. Knowledge about applicable laws and regulations

Your program should include specific information about your organization. But, managers should also be aware of laws and regulations that apply to them.

Some of these can include:

  • Workplace safety laws
  • Equal employment opportunity laws
  • Wage laws
  • Unemployment insurance benefits
  • Leave and paid leave laws
  • Employee compensation benefits

3. Leadership skills

Several soft skills and hard skills can help managers become better leaders.

Some important leadership skills to develop include:

4. Conflict resolution 

Every management development program should include training for conflict resolution.

Leaders who manage teams of all sizes will eventually have to resolve conflicts. Conflict resolution doesn’t come naturally to everyone. This is especially important for first-time managers.

But it can be just as important for more experienced managers who never got the appropriate training for conflicts.

How to start a management development program

If you’re ready to create a professional development program for managers in-house, here are six steps to get started:

1. Assess your organization’s needs

Not all organizations have the same development needs. It’s important to assess those needs before you create a program.

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say non-management employees have little to no opportunity to practice their communication skills while they perform their job duties. This means you may need to emphasize communication skills in your program.

2. Find educators

Before you can plan the program, you’ll need to find people in your organization who can educate your managers.

Choose your educators based on your needs assessment. For example, if there’s a high need for empathy training, make sure you include someone who’s capable of empathy.


3. Create an outline of the program

In collaboration with the educators, outline everything new managers will learn in the program.

You should also outline what strategies your organization will use to teach these skills. For example, how will managers learn to delegate?

4. Do a test run of the program

Put a small group of managers through the program before you do a complete rollout.

Make sure to let them know the program is in its early phases. This is so they can know you need their feedback.

5. Measure the results of the program

Keep track of the people who take the program. Evaluate them often and have them also perform self-evaluations. Survey them on how they think the program could be improved.

Once they get real managerial experience, they’ll be in a better position to know what’s missing from the program. For example, they could discover that they still don’t know how to motivate their team after the training.

6. Consider outside help

Are you struggling to establish effective management development strategies? Consider onboarding outside help to develop exceptional leaders.

With BetterUp, your leaders will get personalized coaching to help them take on managerial roles with skill and confidence.

Start a management development program and grow your leadership force 

With an effective management development program in place, your managers who show promise can become the exceptional leaders they’re meant to be.

You don’t need to manage this alone. Get a demo of BetterUp to see how we can help develop leaders across your whole organization.

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Published September 2, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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