Many professionals have the goal of one day working in a managerial position. But becoming a manager isn't just about putting in time with the expectation of moving up the chain of command; it requires knowledge about both your role and industry. It also typically calls for you to have hands-on management experience.

You may be wondering: How do you gain that experience if you've never held a management position?

Your current role can be an excellent source of management training, so long as you seek out those opportunities. The next time a meeting needs to be led or a team is seeking guidance, expressing your interest in taking on those responsibilities could be enough to convince your employer to give you the opportunity.

In lieu of direct management experience, completing formal management training can be an excellent means of showing initiative and earning your employer's confidence.

Not sure if a management training program is right for you? Here's how completing such a program can help you reach your personal and professional goals.

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What Are Management Training Programs?

A management training program is a professional course offered by an institution or organization that enables participants to learn and develop the skills needed to work in a managerial position successfully.

The skills you'll learn in a management training course vary. Many programs focus on teaching participants the basics of management, such as:

  • The ability to communicate clearly to keep your team on task and working toward your company's strategic goals
  • Ways to delegate effectively and make authoritative decisions when necessary without micromanaging your team members' every move
  • How to gather and interpret business analytics so you can embrace data-driven decision-making, back up your actions with hard numbers, and use metrics to communicate to key stakeholders
  • Specific, but necessary, skills related to conducting performance reviews, employee recruitment, and resolving employee disputes

Other courses may delve into more specific challenges faced by managers, such as organizational change, crisis management, and conflict resolution. Some programs will teach leadership skills as well, such as how to engage, motivate, and empower your employees.

Management training programs come in various formats, depending on students' needs. Courses may be offered in a physical classroom, entirely online, or a mix of both. This allows for flexibility in a participant's schedule and learning abilities.

Reflect on your current skill set—both your strengths and weaknesses—and career goals so you can identify what kind of program would fit your budget and schedule. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement, so check with your organization as you begin researching options.

Related: Should You Take an Online Class? 9 Things to Consider

Management Training vs. Leadership Training

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, it’s important to note that management training programs differ from leadership training programs.

Although there’s some overlap in the work they do, there are key differences between managers and leaders. Whereas managers fill a specific position at an organization, anyone—regardless of their title—can be a leader. According to former Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria in an interview for the online course Management Essentials, management is “working with other people to make sure the goals an organization has articulated are executed.” Leaders are more focused on empowering and influencing their colleagues.

Management training programs are designed specifically for professionals interested in managerial positions, while leadership training programs are suitable for early and mid-career professionals, leaders, and entrepreneurs. When combined with a management training program, leadership training can also be immensely valuable for managers.

HBS Online offers both management and leadership training programs. Management Essentials is an eight-week program that equips you with the real-world strategies and tools needed to make decisions and direct organizational processes, and Leadership Principles is a six-week program designed to help new and aspiring leaders cultivate high-performing teams.

Who Can Benefit from Management Training Programs?

Whether you're an aspiring manager, a newly appointed one, or a seasoned team leader, many professionals can benefit from taking a management training course.

Aspiring Managers

An aspiring manager can prepare for the future by learning about leadership styles and basic management frameworks. In doing so, they can prepare themselves to succeed when it comes time for a promotion. The earlier a professional learns how to direct employees without micromanaging, the more effective their team will be. Once you have the basic skills nailed down, you can continue to learn, grow, and adapt to whatever role you take on.

New Managers

As a new manager, getting up to speed and having quality training is vital. Gaining baseline management skills can enable you to be more confident in your position. In a management course, you can learn how to boost productivity by balancing both your team's workload and your own and set effective and attainable goals. Neither of these tasks is easy, but they're crucial to success.

Seasoned Managers

If you're a seasoned manager looking to sharpen your skills, taking a management course can be beneficial. While some programs might focus on the basics, others may offer leadership and management lessons from faculty and knowledgeable practitioners trained in organizational processes. Learning from those experts can provide you with new perspectives, enabling you to continue to learn and grow professionally. If you're aiming to ascend to upper management, you'll need to not only learn how to prioritize tasks, communicate clearly, and hire talent, but empower and motivate employees on a larger scale.

Key Benefits of Management Training

While you can gain valuable on-the-job training throughout your career, taking a course can bolster your skills and credentials. A management training program can help you overcome situations that arise in the workplace by equipping you to be more detail-oriented, teaching you how to ask the right questions, and strengthening your analytical skills.

The specific benefits of management training programs include:

  • A deeper understanding of the role of a manager
  • Helpful feedback from experienced professionals
  • Improved communication skills
  • Refined decision-making skills
  • The ability to manage organizational change
  • Knowledge of how to implement strategies, plans, and budgets

Some industries require standardized training, but the skills learned in management courses can be beneficial to anyone who is hoping to be, or currently is, a manager. Many employers view those with certifications as professionals who are knowledgeable, capable, and eager to continue learning.

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Finding the Right Training Program

When evaluating management training programs, it's essential to find one that aligns with your unique goals and current situation. Ultimately, the program you choose should be one that will complement your strengths, bolster your weaknesses, and help you prepare for the position you want.

Some important qualities to look for include:

  • Compatibility with your schedule: As a working professional, your time is likely limited. Choosing an online program can offer the flexibility needed to develop your skills while also meeting your current obligations.
  • Collaborative learning: Participating in a management training program offers the opportunity to interact with other professionals and aspiring managers from a range of industries and backgrounds, giving you the chance to learn from others and network.
  • Industry-leading faculty: Find a course that includes faculty and instructors with direct experience managing teams. Instructors who’ve worked in the position themselves can approach the course material with insights and advice that can be difficult to gain from lectures and readings alone.
  • Case-based learning model: Case-based learning allows participants to dive deep into real-world challenges faced by managers from a range of industries and offers the opportunity to learn from their experiences.

If you're looking for a training program that fits all of these needs, Management Essentials may be a good fit. Participants complete 35 to 45 hours of course material on their own time over an eight-week period, making it suited for those with demanding schedules. Three group exercises allow for collaborative learning, while case-based education offers deep insights into the challenges of executives from some of America's biggest companies, including Amgen Pharmaceuticals and Uber.

Want to learn more about how management training can help propel you toward your career goals? Explore our eight-week online course Management Essentials.

This post was updated on June 25, 2021. It was originally published on February 11, 2020.

Tim Stobierski

About the Author

Tim Stobierski is a marketing specialist and contributing writer for Harvard Business School Online.