Top 3 Challenges in Leadership Development
Leadership/Management Development – By Kevin Kruse
What are today’s leadership development priorities?
For much of the past 18 months, leadership development professionals have had to nimbly react to fast-changing demands driven by unprecedented world events.
- Quick! We have to figure out how to do all our training remotely!
- Hey, we need “leading remote teams” training, stat!
- New plan … who are the best diversity & inclusion suppliers out there?
- Resiliency! Resiliency! What do we have?
With the assumption that the worst of the pandemic and news cycles are behind us, where are we now? What are the priorities among leadership development professionals today?
I’m fortunate to lead a community of practice (CoP) of dozens of leadership development professionals from a variety of companies and industries, including Accenture, Delta, Google, Intuit, Northwestern Mutual, RB and others. After a recent benchmark survey and CoP meetings, three distinct themes emerged.
The issue top of mind among the leadership development professionals I surveyed was how to handle the return to work. Many companies have already announced that they will allow employees to work from home permanently. Many more have agreed to more of a flex schedule, like a 2-3 flex schedule (i.e., spending two days a week in the office and three remote).
Even the companies that are requiring employees to return to the office recognize that another pandemic or black swan event could just as easily reverse that decision.
The consensus seems to be that training delivery – even soft skills training that has historically been viewed as a wholly in-person event – needs to be flexible. Moving forward, all programs and all facilitators must have the flexibility to deliver fully remote, fully in-person or hybrid (i.e., participants who are remote while others are in the room).
#2 Is Training a Burden or a Benefit?
Perhaps the most interesting CoP conversation occurred around the idea of learning hour requirements. One successful technology company has the requirement of 40 hours of learning per year, per employee.
At first glance, this seems like a positive policy to me. After all, it urges everyone to schedule time for ongoing learning – almost an hour a week – and sends the message to managers that they need to give time to their team members for training.
However, another learning professional made a counterargument. Especially in these times when so many people are juggling their core responsibilities at work with childcare and health stress at home, having a learning hour requirement could be viewed more as a burden. And as Dr. Jennifer “Jea” Arzberger of Ping Identity shared, ideally training programs should be so “personally meaningful and joyfilled” that there is literally a waiting list to attend.
#3 What Pull-Through Strategies Actually Work?
Certainly a perennial issue, addressing the “knowing-doing” gap is more critical in times when optional training should be delayed and leadership skills are more important than ever. Just because someone completes a coaching, e-learning program or workshop, how do you know that they are actually doing it? How do you know that the district managers who scored in the lower third of your last pulse survey really are getting better?
Discussions range from traditional “gaining manager support” to behavioral nudges via smartphone to measuring before and after 360 surveys. And, of course, a related issue: Are you sure the leadership behaviors you are training are actually correlated to performance and team engagement? Or is it just assumed?
There are no easy answers for any of the above questions; otherwise, they wouldn’t be raised as top current concerns. And what works for one company, in one industry, may not work for everyone.
But by gathering to discuss challenges, resources, experiments and results, leadership development professionals will be able to raise their profession – and the skills of the leaders under their charge – to new heights.
Kevin Kruse is the CEO of LEADx. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.