A majority of organizations anticipate a deficit in qualified leaders by 2020, and even more upsetting, 71% of companies do not feel their current leaders are able to lead their organization into the future. While the numbers vary across surveys, the overwhelming consensus is that leadership skills are lacking. Meanwhile, US companies spent $160 billion on employee training and education in 2015 alone. Companies are prioritizing skill development and training and employees dream of advancement opportunities, yet there’s still a dissonance. What is holding leadership development back?
The Missing Link
Organizations are investing in training and development programs. Employees not only want to work for companies that offer advancement opportunities, they expect them when assessing potential employers. Luckily, 61% of workers said their employers are providing upskilling opportunities in the technical and soft skills of the future. Unfortunately, only 50% said their employers provide career development opportunities that meet their needs and chances for advancement. These findings point to a disconnect between strategy, tactic and implementation. Sure, it’s become best practice to build training and skill development into corporate strategy, but application is lacking.
Employers are going through the motions, even following through with tactics, but aren’t translating it to everyday work. Think of it as the difference between classroom lectures and real-world experience. The process seems to stop after the knowledge is transferred.
Your Bottom Line
A leadership development strategy is a statement to your employees. The investment leaves internal talent feeling appreciated and instills a sense of loyalty to the organization who is helping them to grow professionally. When it works right, employees notice, participate, brag and, above all, become more skilled. They can better support your business and will be more engaged. Additionally, news of opportunities like this travels. Incoming hires will sense the potential for their own growth, increasing the likelihood they choose your organization over the competition. Plus their interest in reaching proficiency during the training stages increases.
The Leadership Development Situation
Blame falls in many directions, but the best course of action as a business is to stop seeking the cause and start finding a solution. If you have a leadership development program, but still struggle to feel confident that employees can fill managerial or C-suite roles, it’s time to rethink your approach. There are many means to an end, but the following are critical to every step:
Develop Your Unique Competencies: Sure, there are basic skills every great leader should have, but your workplace probably calls for specific competencies unique to your organization. Use your mission and values as discovery methods to further delineate role or department competencies. This will ensure your employees are learning the skills they need to succeed where ever they are training to go, while also helping solidify their interest and ability to perform in those roles.
Cater to the Inclinations of Your Unique Workers: Leaders aren’t born because leadership is a learned skilled. There will be those who naturally do well in managerial roles, but often you can trace that talent back to an experience that built those skills. Take time to understand the person beneath the experience-level, and how their interests and abilities can be applied to development opportunities. Discovering these tendencies might help your organization identify people who have specific interests or talents. It won’t always work, but it could help start conversations with employees who haven’t yet considered their preferred career trajectory. For example, Inspire Software works closely with the DISC personality test to help factor behavioral inclinations that might affect how we work.
Identify High-Potential Employees: This idea is one that should be approached with caution. It’s important that your identification process be focused on proof of performance and actual competencies. If not, you run the risk of brushing over capable employees with great potential.
Place Emphasis on Informal/On-the-Job Training: A presentation with slides is usually as effective as a classroom lecture. Formal training can work and sometimes is the most appropriate method for a situation, however, the best knowledge sharing happens in the day-to-day. This is most often done through workshops, mentorships, shadowing programs or coaching, but should also be encouraged in organic settings, too. For example, creating teams with a mix of experienced and inexperienced talent so they can learn and innovate together.
Connect Goals, Performance and Training: There is a gap between training and application. To bridge that gap, organizations need to build connections between tasks and goals. Setting SMART goals and increasing organizational transparency is critical here. If employees are to start mentally connecting their job to skills they develop, they are going to need to see the motivations behind business strategy. Managers should discuss professional goals with employees in one-on-one settings and ensure they are helping to create performance plans that can help them attain those goals.how Inspire benefits leadership at every level.