Innovating to Train the Next Generation of Leaders

An expert in modernized company training methods weighs in on the future of workplace learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Tom Griffiths

The adage that “employees are a company’s most valuable asset” is as old and accepted as they come. The time, energy, and capital that goes into acquiring, developing, and retaining an organization’s people in the right way is an investment that not only brings strong returns but also reduces cost.

While the goals of these talent management practices are timeless and well-established, their implementation has evolved over time as new generations enter the workforce and bring with them new worldviews and experiences that mold the workplace of the future.

To better attract, engage, and empower this next generation, especially as they increasingly become our leaders, we must start by understanding the trends, behaviors, and goals of these professionals of the modern workplace. Spoiler alert: learning and development matters, a lot.

Work, career success, and identity are strongly intertwined.

On the whole, modern generations of employees seek fulfillment in their professional roles to a greater extent than those past. At the highest-level, they want to have an impact. LinkedIn’s 2016 global report revealed that 74% of candidates want a job where they feel like their work matters.

Members of the modern-day workforce are also constantly searching for ways to learn, grow and experience new things as individuals. This is so important that 67% of millennials reported that they would leave a position if it lacked growth opportunities and avenues for leadership development, according to a survey by Bridge. The good news is that the same survey revealed the solution: that offering career training and development would keep 86% of millennials from leaving their current position.

When this generation of workers is evaluating a new job opportunity, or whether they will stay at their current company, they are taking into great consideration the purpose and impact of the work they’re a part of, and the opportunities for personal and professional growth. They are demanding more of their employers and ask questions beyond “Could I see myself here in the future?” and instead ask “How much more will I grow and develop if I stay in this role versus elsewhere?” or “What important professional skills will I gain from taking this role?”

And they are searching for the data and performance metrics to back that up. Thus, to attract and retain the best emerging talent, companies and organizations have been driven to emphasize the impact of every individual and provide rich professional development experiences for them along the way.

A more interconnected world has led to a growing number of remote and distributed teams.

In addition to a more meaningful work experience, more organizations are building distributed teams to access talent in new markets, across time zones, and provide more flexibility for employees. In fact, the trend towards distributed teams is stronger than ever with a solid majority (64%) of companies now employing remote teams and workers.

But while a distributed team can be fantastic for employees and organizations, it also presents new leadership and cultural challenges.

Work practices that were once taken for granted like water cooler chats, in-person performance feedback, team lunch-and-learns, face-to-face training sessions, and ad-hoc conversations because you’re sitting next to your manager are often not possible anymore.

As a result, companies with remote teams are now finding creative solutions to these challenges, from coordinating across time zones and experimenting with the best collaboration tools to tackling larger questions like “How do I create a virtual ‘water cooler space?’”, “How do I keep my remote team engaged?” and “How do we optimize professional development across distributed teams? Of course, learning and development must also keep up.

The future of leadership development will be driven by innovative experiences built on familiar foundations.

Given the above trends, the workplace is clearly undergoing significant change. As our next generation of employees stands poised to step into more and more leadership roles, in ever more distributed workplaces, we must ensure they’re adequately prepared. This must happen in ways that captivate their desire for growth, and be delivered in innovative ways that meet them where they are.

Companies must therefore be investing in leadership development that is engaging, relevant, and delivered to learners no matter where they are or how they like to learn, in order to have a competitive employee experience and ensure long-term success.

What does this look like? The good news is that standard principles of effective pedagogy still apply, and technology can serve to make them even more effective. High-quality instructors teaching the nuanced principles of leadership interactively still matter, and live video technology allows us to distribute their impact across global workforces. Thoughtfully-prepared, well-researched content backed by data to convince even the most skeptical learners still works.

And continuous reinforcement, through technology, instructors and peers can be facilitated by new platforms to translate learning into behavior change and ultimately business impact.

With an exciting explosion of platform options for corporate learning, it’s also important to manage the complexity of solutions with robust integrations and well-designed, coherent learner experiences.

In summary…

In summary, companies and organizations are dealing with more demand for training and development experiences than ever, while facing a changing landscape of team distribution and learner expectations.

Nowhere is the need more acute than in leadership development.

This is spawning an exciting wave of innovation that uses technology to combine age-old training practices with digitally enabled learner experiences.

When companies invest in this area and deploy these solutions thoughtfully they have a viable and exciting path forward in the modern and dynamic workplace, and can truly leverage the opportunity to grow their people in the short term to ensure their value and impact over the long term.

Tom Griffiths is CEO and co-founder of Hone, an all-in-one, live-virtual training solution designed to help companies cultivate strong people leaders by combining top instructors and the latest in leadership and management research with a unique technology platform, providing a world-class experience that is accessible and measurable. Contact Tom through LinkedIn.

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