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Not Just Another Leadership Development Program

Shelly Holt, Ex-Vice President of Learning & Development, Expedia Group [NASDAQ: EXPE], Chief People Officer, PayScale
Shelly Holt, Ex-Vice President of Learning & Development, Expedia Group [NASDAQ: EXPE], Chief People Officer, PayScale

Shelly Holt, Ex-Vice President of Learning & Development, Expedia Group [NASDAQ: EXPE], Chief People Officer, PayScale

Predictions, predictions, predictions. Everywhere you turn, there are predictions about the future of work.

As computing, data, artificial intelligence and universal connectivity converge, organizations must reevaluate their business strategies to ensure long-term success. And we aren’t talking small tweaks; we are talking major transformations. In fact, a recent Harvard publication said 54 percent of organizations are currently amid transformation.

What may surprise many is that the business transformation itself is not even the hardest part. While understanding where you want to go and how to stay competitive is important, it does not change the skills, mindset and behaviors of the people required to get you there.

Adding further to this complexity is that global skills are evolving at a pace we have never seen. Shifting demographics are causing global talent shortages, and we are no longer competing just for human talent, but also machine talent. In this new world, our lives as leaders have never been harder.

Managing through the complexity

Remaining agile and building the resilience required to execute in this climate are not industry-specific problems. Ambiguity and uncertainty are challenging for even the most nimble leaders. To succeed in this new world, leaders will need a different set of social, organizational and personal skills.

 Continuous learning journeys create an environment that allows leaders to learn, practice and apply critical leadership development skills while also gaining future skills such as agility, resilience, and collaboration  

There’s never been a more compelling case for changing the way we, as Human Resource practitioners, think about developing our talent, and more specifically, how we develop our leaders. While leadership development can often be described as soft and squishy, today it is a critical differentiator, with recent estimates showing that spending in this area is as high as $50 billion annually.

An increase in leadership development spending, however, does not mean we automatically crack the code to building leaders with the skills, mindset and behaviors this new climate requires. With transformation success on the line, it will take more than just dollars.

Re-thinking the way leaders need to learn

The next leadership development program you roll-out can’t be just another standard program—meaning that to provoke the change needed to remain competitive in today’s world, it’s time to do things differently.

1. Getting leaders to understand the skills they need both in the short-term and in the future should be done in a way that meets them where they are. Building critical leadership skills like growth mindset, resilience and learning agility, needs to happen naturally and intentionally, embedded into real-world business problems. Partner with the business to truly understand the current state and then put learning interventions in place that solve these short-term and long-term needs.

Not meeting the learners where they are is one of the biggest traps HR professionals fall into. Pushing initiatives we think are necessary for people development, without providing line of sight or recognizing what people have on their plates and then mandating these programs to get compliance, doesn’t always create a compelling case for change. Disparate, unconnected, and decoupled leadership development programs will not drive success in building the skills of the future.

2. It’s time to stop treating learning as a one-time event. Sending leaders to a 3-day learning program and expecting them to apply what was learned in their everyday work is not an effective approach. Leaders need to combine learning with practice and real-world application. Continuous learning journeys create an environment that allows leaders to learn, practice and apply critical leadership development skills while also gaining future skills such as agility, resilience, and collaboration. They’re building the skills that they need today along with the skills of tomorrow, in a more natural way.

3. Technology is a necessary component for any learning development program. Consumer-grade, easy-to-use technology tools can offer leaders an environment where they can learn, share and collaborate, without requiring extra time or resources to understand how to use them. Leaders also need a safe place to engage with their peers, a critical piece as they will be solving never-before-seen challenges. A leader’s ability to collaborate, problem solve and tap into the diversity around them could be the difference in their ability to accelerate business transformation. The right learning tools are an essential component.

While nobody has a crystal ball to look into the future, we do know, with certainty, that things are changing quickly. Doing nothing to develop your leaders is not an option, and doing what you have always done only gives you a 50/50 chance of making an impact. It’s time to seize this opportunity to do things differently—a winning strategy.

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