As we approach 2020, leadership development continues to be a burning issue for executives. Companies have an urgent need to level-up leadership skills in faster, more fluid ways than ever before. According to a Deloitte survey, respondents ranked leadership as the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations worldwide. Only 13 percent of their respondents indicated that they do an excellent job developing leaders at all levels—revealing a massive skills gap.
This is nothing new for talent and development leaders who have been advocating for investments in leader development consistently over the past decade. So why are executives raising their voice on this issue now? Quite simply, because the world of work is undergoing massive disruption and we need a new breed of leaders. As organizations become flatter and more dynamic there’s a new premium on agility, handling uncertainty, resilience, and creating psychological safety across teams.
Leadership development isn’t broken…it’s just bent
Traditional leadership development programs have often been delivered with an event-based approach (one-and-done training events) coupled with ongoing mentoring support. While both are valuable, they lack effectiveness for true knowledge building, retention and habit-formation. They also often fail to deliver the modern content themes needed to meet the needs of a contemporary workplace. (How often can you realistically update in-class training content and upskill your mentors?)
Successful programs inject continuous learning into the experience that incorporates both self-guided content for on-demand needs and nudge learning to direct busy leaders to and through quick modules that enforce skills building. Thanks to modern learning technologies, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to deliver continuous learning at scale. But how do you convince senior leaders to make the investment?
Making the case
Agreeing that modernizing leadership development is a priority and ponying up the resources to actually build and deliver something that has a real impact can feel like two different things. It is not uncommon for learning leaders to struggle to garner and maintain funding and focus. The key ingredients to getting to “yes” are two-fold: communicating a vision of what an effective leadership development program entails in the modern digital era, and a solid plan for measuring results.
Build buy-in on needed skills
Gain executive agreement and support on critical leadership competencies needed at every level. Senior leaders must provide input on the specific leadership skills and behaviors required to successfully execute the company’s strategy. Whether your organization is entering new global markets or moving to a flatter operational structure, it’s important to understand which skills are needed to successfully execute future plans.
Assess your learning and communications ecosystem
Where do your leaders “hang out”? How do they prefer to receive information, and in which ways are they most responsive to communication? Determine how to deliver learning in a way that works best for your leaders, so you can ensure your hard-earned budget dollars don’t end up collecting dust in an unused learning portal. Keep in mind it doesn’t need to live in one spot: modern implementation technologies allow you to sprinkle learning throughout your digital spaces and comms channels to offer a frictionless user experience.
Prepare to measure
Next, come prepared with a plan to baseline the status-quo of current skills and competencies and then provide a strategy for capturing the ongoing results from your new leadership development experiences. Access to individual and team-wide usage, trending topics, and knowledge check results helps you measure and report on competency-specific skills building. This is also where a frictionless user experience is invaluable: user engagement gets a measurable boost when you make it super easy for leaders to bump into and access learning.
Don’t be afraid to start with a pilot
When those who hold the purse strings aren’t ready to part with enough budget to make your modern learning experience a complete reality, try countering with a pilot program, either for a subset of leaders or for a shortened period of time. Once you are able to track and communicate the ROI of your new learning experience, you’re often able to fully deliver the compelling case needed to secure buy-in.
Need help designing or modernizing a learning experience for your leaders? Chat with a microlearning specialist to learn how to deliver continuous learning tailored to your core competencies at scale.