As talent development responsibilities extend beyond the Human Resources department, management and leadership teams express their needs for more support in developing their skills as well as their staff’s skills. Organizations that provide the proper training and resources and effectively partner with their L&D teams see increased performance and engagement and decreased turnover. Management and leadership success in talent development is directly related to overall business success, promoting a sense of purpose that translates to higher productivity, retention, and company growth.
L&D can help by ensuring training programs and resources are both organized and ongoing. Soft skills training such as leadership, problem solving, and communication can help facilitate success throughout the organization. LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report notes that L&D professionals are focusing on building soft skills as the technology landscape evolves, with a high demand for strong leadership, creativity, and communication skills. Developing these skills is especially desirable for Millennials and Gen X, Y, and Xers who are focused on developing their entrepreneurial and leadership skills, as they set their sights on becoming the next cohort of managers and executives.
When managers and leaders are equipped with the right training, at the right time, they are perfectly poised to turn learning into actionable goals. Newer leadership teams and managers may struggle to balance tasks within their new role; therefore, learning must be accessible in a way that fits with their schedule. Opening access to mobile learning and microlearning can provide on-demand, on-the-go training and support that is essential for the busiest of managers, leaders, and staff.
Leadership will continue to influence culture, and good leadership drives engagement and motivates staff. According to Sylvester, a leadership coaching organization, 77% of organizations report they’re experiencing a leadership gap. If your organization is not equipped with a management and leadership program for all your employees, you will lack the ability to keep and attract top talent, increase productivity, and stay competitive.
What do management and leadership teams need?
Like most new employees, new managers face a learning curve when settling into their roles. A 2019 survey by Robert Half revealed a list of top challenges when becoming a manager; nearly 32% worried about balancing individual responsibilities with the need to oversee staff, while 19% said it was most difficult to manage friends and former peers. Others found it challenging to motivate teams (17%), prioritize projects (16%), or meet higher performance expectations (16%).
Adapt your L&D strategy to each situation
Looking forward, L&D for leadership teams should always address skills gaps and prepare them for the changing nature of the business landscape (as we so abruptly witnessed with COVID-19 this past year). Here are ten suggestions on how to start the process:
- Again, focus on soft skills. Hard skills, such as financial modeling or coding, are only half of the equation. Managers and leaders must develop the ability to communicate, make personal connections, and lead–regardless of whether they are developers or analysts. L&D programs add enormous value by addressing the soft skills gap.
- Find better tools to help managers and leaders efficiently seek and filter training content. Supply new and relevant content to them directly rather than managers having to look for it. The content needs to be comprehensive, so managers are confident they are not missing new resources.
- From knowledge transfer to knowledge creation. The highest performers may not be the most knowledgeable, but they will be the best at searching for, identifying, and integrating information. They will also be the best at acquiring new skills. Forward-thinking L&D programs develop these analytical capabilities and convert employees into autodidacts. Data analytics is an essential skill that will benefit all roles throughout an organization.
- Take advantage of peer-to-peer training. In traditional L&D, one expert imparts their knowledge to a group. While the expert continues playing a key role in forward-thinking L&D programs, employees also learn from peers and share their own knowledge. These programs mirror modern companies, which are more collaborative and team-oriented (by combining traditional instruction with digital learning and/or simulations that enable employees to apply what they have learned in a practical business setting).
- Make your training cross-functional. Traditional L&D programs focus on deepening learners’ understanding of a particular topic or business sector. Leadership and forward-thinking L&D programs will build upon this foundation by convening cross-functional teams and enabling them to solve problems in innovative ways.
- Curate content which is personalized to the manager. For example, training about the specific topics they are interested in, shared by subject matter experts they like. Consider a storytelling approach to the training process.
- Provide mobile access to content, quickly and easily. For the 70%+ of managers that are using their mobile devices for learning, this allows them to read it anytime, and from anywhere.
- Use a blended-learning approach. Successful L&D programs take delivery to the next level by combining technology (eLearning), instructor-led, and simulations to drive high levels of engagement, achieve learning outcomes, and increase key competencies and knowledge.
- Get them to share their daily learning habits with their team. They may be so natural at explaining and collaborating that they are not recognizing those as key workplace skills. They can and should be role models.
- Encourage them to ‘work out loud’. Regularly reflect actively on what they’re finding, what’s working, what could be done better. Managers and leadership teams influence the tone of sharing and openness in their teams, support them in doing so (and of course, be an example of working out loud in L&D).
Lastly, organize support systems for your managers, leadership teams, and their peers. They will act as a sounding board for your managers to share challenges, ask questions, and gather ideas, fostering their leadership development in a healthy culture.
Organizations that offer management and leadership focused L&D programs do more than develop future leaders; they increase their ability to attract top talent, boost employee morale, increase employee engagement, and improve retention. In a business environment where companies’ value is increasingly tied to intangible assets, such as its intellectual property and its people, investing in L&D translates to superior financial performance and a long-term competitive advantage.