Leadership from the top is crucial to your organization’s success.

You also know leadership comes from everywhere and everyone, not just from executives.

Focusing only on leadership within the C-suite and on big-idea initiatives won’t move an organization forward. Executives provide a vision and a road map, but without buy-in and, critically — execution — from managers at every level, your vision isn’t likely to materialize.

Your managers matter.


The case for exceptional managers

Ineffective managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, according to Gallup. They’ve been shown to be the dominant factor in your employees’ experiences. Managers are powerful shapers of individual engagement, team culture, technical skills and emotional intelligence.

And yet, when it comes to hiring these important positions, 82% of companies hire candidates without the high-level managerial and leadership competencies necessary for success.

That’s tough news to take in.

But there’s good news, too. Many of those under-equipped managers can master the skills they need if an organization invests the time and resources into management training and development by properly coaching them for excellence.

Think of it as a managerial center of excellence — good for your managers, their teams and your organization.

The HR-based Learning and Development (L&D) team at Hyland, a global software company, recently created such a center. This reimagining earned Hyland the Excellence in Practice Award for Leadership/Management Development from the Association for Talent Development (ATD), the world’s largest professional membership organization for supporting the development of knowledge and skills for employees.

Now, Hyland’s team has leveraged its succcess story into a road map for other organizations looking to rejuvenate their leadership culture. Here’s how to start your management training and development program revitalization.

Part 1: Identify your needs

Step 1: Listen to the stakeholders

Hyland’s L&D team predicted the existing way of supporting and developing new leaders wasn’t a future-focused approach.

So, like any great change-makers, the team dug into all the data they could get ahold of by:

  • Conducting focus groups with past manager training participants
  • Benchmarking quantifiable data against other organizations in the industry
  • Reviewing post-program survey feedback
  • Conducting brainstorming sessions with the internal HR Business Partners and Organizational Development team
  • Debriefing stakeholders to measure how well expectations were being met

The considerable amount of feedback from these efforts provided a strong sense of what was needed to hit long-term organizational goals.

The results were informative and actionable. Like a pathway lit up for easier navigation, the stakeholders had essentially uncovered the goals and mission for Hyland’s future manager training center of excellence.

The program would need to:

  • Create exceptional manager training for remote workers
  • Incorporate tactical, corporation-specific training
  • Foster peer networks and prioritize relationship development
  • Fill gaps between learning events with purposeful interactions among participants
  • Involve experienced Hyland leaders from management and non-management positions
  • Connect content to real-world, in-role situations
  • Formally recognize when a manager met the standards of excellence by completing the program
  • Standardize and commit to an ongoing process of integrating feedback, metrics and continuous improvement into the program

“We knew where we wanted and needed to go on this redesign journey,” said Julie Holland, manager of Learning and Development, “but with our current team structure and our current learning management system, we needed to think even bigger.”


Step 2: Create a vision

Hyland’s L&D team had been empowered by high-level leadership to create an award-caliber program for manager training. Everyone believed in its importance and necessity.

With buy-in from the top, the team went to work.

They developed a set of 12 leadership competencies for managers to be evaluated by:

  • 6 frontline manager competencies:

    • Ensures accountability
    • Communicates effectively
    • Displays courage
    • Develops talent
    • Directs work
    • Demonstrates self-awareness
  • 3 managers of managers competencies:

    • Business insight
    • Collaboration
    • Global perspective
  • 3 executive team competencies:

    • Decision quality
    • Strategic mindset
    • Drives vision and purpose

The six frontline competencies became the driving force for the program objectives because the target audience, frontline managers, would be evaluated by their direct reports on these standards every year.


Step 3: Get the right people and technology

Hyland’s L&D team could see it needed support to achieve its full vision. 

“We needed additional headcount to add to our instructional design team, so we could create an enormous volume of innovative new content, quickly,” Holland said. “The additions needed unique sets of skills so they could jump right in and start creating and delivering exceptional content.”

Identifying the needs was the easy part, but finding perfect matches — as always — was more difficult. The team realized hiring couldn’t be the only strategy, and upskilling became an important part of the restructure.

“Supporting employees to pursue fulfilling careers at Hyland is what drives our team,” Holland said. “We do that all the time for our employees, but we also needed to do that for ourselves. We decided to upskill our organizational development specialists by supporting them to get certified in specific areas and build their credibility and confidence.”

As a technology company, it’s no surprise Hyland also wanted to scrutinize its legacy learning management system (LMS) platform. The team determined the existing tech simply didn’t have the scope to reach the full extent of the future-forward manager training vision. 

The new LMS had to allow for:

  • Specific cohorts to collaborate freely, regardless of time zone
  • Selection of electives while enforcing prerequisites
  • Mobile offerings, while supporting both instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual-instructor-led training (VILT)

Part 2: Design and execute your program

Step 1: Align your program goals and main components

To meet the organizational objectives of the management training and development program reimagining, the L&D team envisioned a 12-month, blended learning curriculum consisting of:

  • VILT
  • E-learning courses
  • Discussion forum posts
  • Videos
  • On-the-job training
  • Social collaboration

Together, the components needed to be easily accessible and appealing to managers wherever they were around the globe. High-quality manager training for remote workers was essential to long-term success.

Step 2: Lean into partnerships

Part of Hyland’s management training vision included company-specific training, but the need for more extensive, universal courses soon became clear. The team partnered with a leading vendor of online content to provide a foundation and framework for its program.

To carry through those resources and extend that investment, the manager training and development program incorporated the third-party base content into virtual-led workshops augmented by Hyland-specific discussions and scenarios.

Additionally, Hyland partnered with a well-known personality typology enterprise. The goal was to enhance managers’ understanding of how people’s natural personalities impact their communication and collaboration styles.



Step 3: Embrace adjustments

Commitment to the vision is important, but it can’t be everything. The ability to note imperfection and act on fixing it is the kind of high-level leadership thinking that programs like this aim to instill.

“Through participant feedback surveys, we have continually adjusted our approach, making program content more effective and more tailored for our leaders,” said Brittany Widener, a Hyland learning and development specialist.

Due to the team’s thorough needs assessment prior to building content, there weren’t a lot of large-scale solutions that needed redevelopment, but there were some. To date, iterative adjustments have included:

Manager training for experienced leaders

Hyland quickly realized it needed an alternative path for more experienced leaders. These new hires or acquired leaders brought extensive management experience on Day One, so Hyland’s L&D team launched an Experienced Leader Program to provide:

  • A 30-day foundational training to get those with management experience up to speed quickly
  • Access to Hyland’s continuous education program for those leaders to continue developing their leadership competencies and skills

These experienced leaders didn’t need new manager training; they needed culture insight and system-specific tactical training. This adjustment showed Hyland valued new hires’ existing leadership skills, competencies and knowledge.

A process for prioritizing timely initiatives

When new initiatives are identified, the L&D team works together with subject matter experts across the business to establish learning objectives and discuss the best method for learning.

For example, 2020 necessitated a shift to all-virtual training. The implementation was seamless; learners already used the virtual learning community routinely and comfortably.

Also in 2020, the team enhanced Hyland’s overall diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, an important focus for the organization’s executives. One highlight of that enhancement featured an Inclusive Leader segment that had both internal and external influences.

Structured but flexible onboarding

Originally, the Hyland team designed its program to start a new cohort of the program every quarter. This meant that if a new manager was promoted or joined the organization after a cohort began, they may have had to wait up to three months to begin.

As it became clear these new leaders weren’t quickly receiving the key tactical resources and training they needed to step into their roles effectively, the L&D team reacted swiftly.

Now, the moment a Hyland employee becomes a manager, they have immediate access to the tactical and foundational training they will utilize from Day One as a leader. However, a formal quarterly cohort kickoff ensures participants stay connected and supported as they proceed through the program.

Part 3: Measure your new program

Step 1: Set metrics

Measuring the new manager training and development program was top of mind for the L&D team.

It knew to get this program right in the long term, it had to set baseline performance measurements and react to improve performances over time.

The goals for this method were to:

  • Gather feedback about levels of satisfaction from the participants
  • Make continuous program improvements
  • Evaluate the learning of participants by empowering them to educate others and reinforce the Hyland company value of peers helping peers
  • Create continuous feedback loops via long-term behavior evaluation

The L&D team adopted the the Kirkpatrick 4 Levels of Evaluation model, a well-known method of evaluating the results of training and learning programs.



  • Participants complete an evaluation survey at the end of the 12-month program


  • Participants complete a final project at the end of the program that focuses on Hyland’s leadership competencies
  • They deliver a training to other leaders at Hyland to share how they have grown and developed their leadership competencies based on the knowledge and skills they developed


  • Participants complete a pre- and post-leadership competency assessment with their direct manager
  • The two competency assessments are evaluated against one another to help in evaluating the behavior growth and development
  • Participants take an annual leadership evaluation, in which their direct manager, peers and direct reports provide ratings and feedback that is used to evaluate the long-term behavior development post-program

Evaluation (ROI)

  • Analyzes multiple data points from levels 1–3, in addition to retention and promotion data

Hyland’s culture of management excellence requires that leaders can mobilize and execute leadership competencies at the highest level.

Before the revamped management training and development program launched, Hyland’s front-line leadership operated at or slightly below a baseline level of competency. The new program created measurable, high-competency leadership behavioral shifts that impacted Hyland’s desired outcomes, including:

  • Fewer involuntary separations
  • A larger managerial focus on strategic vs. tactical tasks
  • Increased coaching of employees and elevated conversations on career development

Step 2: Apply learnings

Evaluating the behavioral shift through a competency assessment allows Hyland to not only see increases in score but also identify the key behaviors and activities that lead to better performances and outcomes.

Additionally, focus groups of past program participants candidly share what additional support they need to fully utilize their skills. Initiatives that were rolled out from this process include:

  • New talent management tools such as Talent Insights (talent review)
  • Quarterly Check-Ins (an enterprise-wide program that supports career development conversations)
  • A revamped approach to objectives and key results (OKRs) to ensure leaders have the flexibility to support their team in reaching individual career goals

The war for talent and how a manager development program adds an advantage

The pandemic-era job market has been unprecedented, and most organizations have been impacted by the Great Resignation, in which millions of workers around the world have quit their jobs — seeking not only increased compensation but a recalibration of what they value in a career and how they work. Tech companies, especially, have seen their highly skilled employees lured away by unexpected offers.

A recent Complete View article, The tech workers you need are nowhere, anywhere and everywhere, details how employers can best position themselves to keep their high-performing tech employees.

Hyland’s global workforce also felt the market-wide shift: Increased remote work opportunities led to talent retention challenges, and front-line leadership has not been immune to those retention concerns.

However, the management training and development proved to create some resiliency in Hyland’s retention numbers. Training analysis showed a direct correlation between leaders having the knowledge and skills necessary and increasing retention numbers.


Develop your managers to extend HR’s strategic leadership

Since the implementation of Hyland’s new management training and development program, the team has experienced quantifiable positive outcomes, including industry-leading retention rates among front-line managers — even during the heights of the pandemic — as well as managers who reported:


almost unanimous belief that the program helped them develop leadership skills


more confidence in their leadership skills, abilities and competencies

Universal enhanced understanding of Hyland’s leadership competencies and how they apply in the workplace

However, one of the greatest outcomes was indirect: An elevated partnership between the L&D team and Hyland leadership across all areas of the business.

To launch the new manager training program, the two groups collaborated closely and intensely, and L&D’s full strength was on display. Its core line of value wasn’t limited to training needs, but proved essential in providing strategic consult for:

  • Change management
  • Risk mitigation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Assimilating new teams and leaders during mergers, acquisitions and internal reorganizations

“When the L&D team came to be seen as a strategic partner, it allowed other areas of human resources to pull up ‘seats at the table,’” Widener said. “The trust, partnership and opportunities that have resulted from this effort have been invaluable to HR — and to Hyland as a whole.”

As executives, you paint the vision for the future of work at your organization.

But your front-line managers paint the vision for all your employees’ day-to-day experiences. 


When 52% of exiting employees say their manager could have done something to prevent them from leaving a job, as Gallup reports, it’s clear the impact of highly competent managers — and the management development programs they graduate from — can be a key to long-term success for your organization.

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