Leadership development programs are the cornerstone of every organization’s future success. As part of employee succession planning, companies that actively provide training to develop future leaders within their organization typically maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
With many millennials (and Generation Z employees) now taking on leadership roles, no company can afford to neglect this important area of career development. According to an IBM study, 84 percent of the best-performing companies in the world provide the training that workers need, including leadership development programs.
The opportunity for career advancement can engage employees and create a more loyal workforce while keeping workers’ skills sharp and fresh. In fact, LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report highlights leadership as the No. 1 focus for talent developers, current managers and executives.
What Do Leadership Development Programs Need to Include?
To produce the best results, there are a few components that leadership development programs should include. In addition to other “soft skills,” the program should touch on concepts such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and team building. Soft skills are considered to be transferable and adaptable.
There are a number of other skills that leaders need to be successful. As noted by Fairy God Boss, honesty and confidence are important traits to possess, along with a passion for leading others. Creativity, authenticity and the ability to delegate are also critical.
Technical skills are equally important. Many times, leaders are expected to coach others and explain complex processes. A joint study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Cass Business School and the University of Warwick indicated that technical skills in leaders can directly impact how employees view their careers. The study found that “having a highly competent boss is easily the largest positive influence on a typical worker’s level of job satisfaction.” When leaders are well-versed in the technical skills of their industry, it provides a certain level of confidence that makes others want to follow them.
How Can Companies Make Sure Employees Are Staying on Track?
Companies need to put together a leadership development timeline to make sure employees are on track and meeting goals. “The No. 1 reason employees say they are not engaging in workplace learning is because they don’t have the time,” according to the LinkedIn report. Therefore, it makes sense to create a timeline for each employee, so he or she can schedule time for learning.
This can be as simple as creating a career plan with each team member that includes one hour of required learning each month in some area of leadership development. In many learning management systems, a timeline can be established that walks employees through leadership topics at their own pace.
All individuals should be encouraged to take leadership courses, attend leadership conferences and train to be the most knowledgeable in their area of expertise. HR can also coordinate with management teams to match new hires with mentors who can support their leadership training. There are many opportunities to include leadership activities like TED talks, industry forums and internal clubs like Toastmasters International, which teach strong communication skills.
In all cases, leadership training programs need to align with corporate goals and employee career growth. This education should become part of the corporate culture and something every staff member participates in. As each generation moves into leadership roles, they should be prepared to accept the challenges that the responsibility brings.